Core scripture: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4: 29).
Message: This is that time of year. Complaining time. Gossip time. Get all this garbage out of me time. No matter how positive I try to be, behind closed doors I have to admit that I struggle in this area. While I may say something nice to a student’s face in class, an hour later I will be slandering that same kid, spreading gossip like wildfire. Take the week before Spring Break for example. My team wasn’t accomplishing much other that complaining about the lack of effort from some kids we share in common. I was in rare form that day. Amidst our complaints, the local tornado siren began to blow outside, giving me a clever idea.
“Alright, let’s just pause for a second and play a game,” I said. “Which one of our kids is totally distracted right now, paying more attention to the siren than the teacher?”
I immediately called out the name of the kid I had in mind. It drew a few laughs from my colleagues, and then they tried to top my nomination with nominations of their own. They were cheap laughs. I would be seeing that same girl I mentioned in class the next hour, and I would probably be smiling at her, praising the glitter that she decorates the corners of her eyes with. Here is my question: would I be asking that horrific question in front of that poor kid? Heck, no! The comment was totally degrading, slandering, and negative in every which way. And it was all for a cheap laugh that did nothing but make me look like a wannabe comedian.
Leave it to good old James to set me straight. James 3: 8-10 states, “But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.” I am blessing and cursing. Praising then slandering. The tongue is a powerful weapon, isn’t it? The lyrics in Hawk Nelson’s song “Words” sing out, “Words can build you up. Words can break you down. Start a fire in your heart or put it out.” It is time we evaluate what our words are doing. What are you saying behind closed doors? Do you put your energy into encouraging students or degrading students?
Do you know what complainers do? They suck the life out of the room. Their negativity spreads to others, giving them a signal that it is okay to complain. I went to a friend’s house over the weekend and sat next to one of his neighbors on the sofa, watching Wisconsin upset Villanova on TV. The poor guy. Everything out of his mouth was negative. He complained about the ref’s calls, he guzzled a beer to drown his sorrows, and he was bitter about his bracket that was now officially shot. Nova blew it. But do you know what else he blew? He blew his chance at hanging around me ever again. I try not to associate with people like that. They bring me down. I removed myself from the couch and grabbed a plate of chips, talking to my friend Michael who never fails to see the positive side. My day instantly became better!
Whose day are you going to brighten today? Who needs a little encouragement? A little love? A little bit of Jesus. We can be Christ to others so much through the way we treat them. Make a decision to let 4th quarter be a quarter of love, grace, and encouragement with your words. If you fall short—and you probably will at times—be sure to humble yourself and apologize. Don’t be the teacher that says only 47 left to teach. Be the teacher that says you have 47 days to make a difference! Inject your students, colleagues, and superiors with Christ-like words that represent all our faith stands for. Be Christ to others.
Challenge: Rank yourself on a scale of one to ten. Are the words coming out of your mouth uplifting, encouraging, and positive? Or are they filled with complaints, sarcasm, and gossip? Journal about times you misuse the tongue and create ideas to help you improve.
Song to bring it home: Hawk Nelson has an amazing song called “Words” that speaks so much truth to the power of the tongue. Listen to it for inspiration on how we as Christian teachers can use our tongues for the good.
Prayer: Lord, keep watch over my words. Guard my tongue, and let my words encourage others. Thank you for the model of this that comes through your Son, Jesus Christ. May my words be more like Him today. Amen.