“Let your life be a stepping stone to Christ and not a stumbling block.” 1 Cor. 8:13 & 10:31

"Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify God who is in heaven." Matt. 5:16

The Power – And Peril – Of The Spoken Word

By Robert D. Foster

Josiah Wedgwood, English maker of the famous Wedgwood pottery, was showing a nobleman through his factory. One of the Wedgwood employees, a young teenager, was accompanying them. The nobleman was profane and vulgar in his conversation with Mr. Wedgwood. At first, the boy was visibly shocked by the language. Then the teenager’s demeanor changed markedly. He became fascinated by the distinguished individual's coarse jokes and laughed at them.

Observing this, Mr. Wedgwood was disgusted and deeply distressed. At the end of the tour, he showed his visitor a vase of unique design. The nobleman was charmed by its exquisite shape and rare beauty.

He reached for it to examine it more closely, but Mr. Wedgwood intentionally let it drop to the floor. The piece of expensive pottery shattered into hundreds of tiny pieces, beyond repair. With an angry epithet, the nobleman cried: "I wanted that vase for my collection. You have just ruined it by your carelessness!"

"Sir,” Mr. Wedgwood responded, “there are other things ruined (today) far more precious than a vase that can never be restored. You can never give back to that young man, who just left us, the reverence for sacred things that his parents have tried to teach him for years. You have undone their labor in less than half an hour."

How do we respond to "street talk," when people around us speak in profane terms or use demeaning language about other people? We could react judgmentally, with recrimination, but it is doubtful that approach would exert any worthwhile influence on the offending speakers. If we do speak up, we would be wise to respond in the manner similar to that used by Mr. Wedgwood – speaking with gentleness, humility and honesty.

Our response to profanity and unacceptable speech should not be an occasion for self-righteousness. I cannot tell you how many times I have found the same language rising from within me. I might have succeeded in suppressing it, but the thought was there just the same. The Bible reminds us, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you do not fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12).

For that reason, through the years I have tried to preface my words with a simple prayer: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord” (Psalm 19:14).

Certainly there are times– whether in the workplace or in our personal pursuits - when circumstances tempt us to utter words that would offend or harm others. So it would be wise to heed the apostle Paul’s admonition in Ephesians 4:29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

A friend of mine, Mart De Haan, has suggested the following prayer: "Father, forgive me for taking Your Name in vain, even if only within the silence of my own heart. Help all of us to recognize the nervous self-reliance that causes us to use such high thoughts in such a low and vulgar way. Help us to learn from our own profanity to see our need of Your Spirit so that we instead will say, 'Oh my God, let everything that I do and say be not for my own satisfaction and self-serving motives but rather for Christ's sake. Amen.' "

Taken and adapted from The Challenge, written and published by Robert D. and Rick Foster. Permission to reproduce with proper credit is freely given and encouraged. For questions or comments, write: 29555 Goose Creek Rd, Sedalia, CO  80135, U.S.A., or fax (303) 647-2315.