By Rev. O.L. Johnson, Religion Columnist
One of my favorite television shows is “All in the Family,” not because I agree with Archie Bunker’s political views, but only because it is just plain funny.
I could always depend on Archie to do two things; call his son-in-law “meathead,” and when his wife would talk too much, he would silence her with a stern, “Edith, stifle yourself!!” What Archie said to Edith is good advice.
Many of us can’t handle criticism, and we get our feelings hurt when someone deliberately says something hurtful to or about us. These folks should take Archie’s advice and stifle themselves, keeping in mind the applicable biblical principle from Solomon’s pen, “death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof” (Proverbs 18:21).
Archie may have borrowed from Solomon because he is giving all his readers the same message that Archie gave Edith: be aware that your words have both destructive and edifying powers, and be prepared to live with the consequences of what you say. In the natural world, we can speak encouraging words that are uplifting and result in a productive person.
On the other hand, we can literally kill initiative and drive in ourselves and in others by the words we say. As bad as that sounds, it’s not the worst thing that can happen, because there’s another way to look at Solomon’s principle when we hook it up with Paul’s words in Romans 10: 9, 10. This results in a spiritual spin on the principle.
Paul tells us in Romans 10:9 that to be saved one must declare that Jesus is the supreme authority in his life and the savior of his soul. In verse 10, he reinforces the idea that we are saved by the words we utter, implying that if one fails to utter the right words, he cannot be saved, and when there is no salvation, there is only spiritual death.
So, when the tongue is engaged, spiritual life results; but when the tongue is silenced the only possible alternative is spiritual death, what scripture calls “the second death” which is no death at all, as we think of death, but rather it is eternal torment of the soul. Wow! What a fire-and-brimstone thought that is! But, “it’s in the book.”
Our goal is not to scare or depress anyone, but I believe the whole gospel should be preached and not just part of it. We all need to know the ramifications of failing to accept Christ, because that’s part of the gospel message. This is a “side bar” and not the final point of this article, so let’s get to that point.
Proverbs 18:21 has multiple applications in the natural world and the spiritual world. It’s not a case of which application is right. They’re both right, depending on the situation; but I believe the spiritual application stands out since it has eternal implications. So, stop and count to 10 before speaking. Your words have the power to change a life, for better or for worse.
Rev. O.L. Johnson, a retired LAPD lieutenant, is an associate pastor in his home church, Greater New Zion Baptist, 501 W. 80th St. in South Los Angeles.
Pastor’s Corner is a religious column that looks at the relevancy of scripture in life today. The column appears monthly in The Wave and on its website, www.wavepublication.com.