A rabbi named Joseph Telushkin is a well known speaker on the subject of taming your tongue. The scriptures call us to consider the power of our words and their ability to hurt people. At the conclusion of his speech, Telushkin asks his audience an interesting question. He invites them to raise their hand if they think that if they tried really, really hard, they could go twenty-four hours without saying an unkind thing to or about someone else. Typically only a small minority of the audience raises their hands, while the rest of them chuckle and shake their heads no.
Let’s think about that…do you think you could make it twenty-four hours without saying something negative or derogatory to or about someone else?
Then the rabbi makes this salient point: If you couldn’t go twenty-four hours without alcohol, you would recognize that you have a drinking problem. If you couldn’t go twenty-four hours without a cigarette, you would know that you are probably addicted to nicotine. So if you can’t go twenty-four hours without making a negative comment, you have lost control of your tongue.
I told this story in a recent sermon on James 5, and church member texted me that afternoon and said that she didn’t even make it a full hour! What we think often comes out in what we say, and it is definitely the case that our thoughts and attitudes are revealed in our behavior and our conversations.
Our passage in Hebrews today reminds us that nothing we say, think, or do is hidden from God’s sight. He has provided his word as a daily guide for our interactions with one another. The things we do and say are under his watchful eye, and everything is uncovered and laid bare before him:
Hebrews 4 (New International Version)
12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
This is why it is imperative to live under the authority of God’s word. It is active and alive. It is sharper than a double-edged sword and it cuts to the heart of the matter. It is the standard by which we must give an account for our actions. Reading, understanding, and doing the word of God will keep us in line with God’s expectations of us.
Luckily, we have a great high priest to help us.
Jesus the Great High Priest
14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
The old WWJD movement, where we were invited to consider What Would Jesus Do in any situation, was really a smart thing. If we are being held accountable to the word of God, wouldn’t it be smart to do things and say things that mirror the Word of God?
God sent Jesus to be an intermediator for us, allowing us access to the throne of grace. He is the Word that is sharp enough to judge our thoughts and attitudes. He is the Word that is a double-edged sword. He is the Word who offers us mercy and grace when our words betray us.
So consider what you say today. Consider what God’s word says. Consider what Jesus would do and say. And remember that when you need help, you will find mercy and grace every time you approach God’s throne.
God gives us his Word on it.