By: Gary L. Hutchens
Remember when, as a young child, you were shocked when mom or dad asked if you did or said something you thought they should not have know about? You were caught completely off guard, busted! You asked, “How did you know?” They said, “A little birdie told me.” I used a variation when my boys asked how I knew about something they did. I would say, “I’ve got connections all over the place,” and then I’d leave them wondering, Who, What, Where, How?…
Solomon cautioned, “Do not curse the king, even in your thought; Do not curse the rich, even in your bedroom; For a bird of the air may carry your voice, And a bird in flight may tell the matter.” (Eccl. 10:20). If you’ve ever wondered where “A little birdie told me” came from, read again what Solomon wrote.
James wrote a classic, lengthy treatise on the misuse of the tongue (Jas. 3). He pointed to how difficult it is for us to maintain proper discipline in how we speak when he said, “For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.” (vs. 2).
He illustrates how much trouble careless words can stir up by comparing it to a massive forest fire ignited by just a little starter fire (vs. 5). He states bluntly, “And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.” (vs. 6).
James clearly identifies ungodly, destructive misuse of language, the words we speak, as being instigated by Hell. He goes on, “the tongue…is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” (vs. 8). He speaks of our inconsistency in blessing and praising God with the same tongue with which we curse people around us whom God created in His own likeness (vs. 9).
In Solomon’s text he emphasized that words carelessly spoken, supposedly in private, have a way of getting out and becoming known and causing harm as a result. Oh, that little birdie! Never has this been more true than in our day of virtually unbridled social media. We post something, and it is immediately communicated around the world. Once something is said, it cannot be unsaid. No matter how vigorously we try to take it back and make amends, the hurt and damage has already been done. And, those careless words can end up putting the one who spoke them in danger; “…the lips of a fool shall swallow him up;” (Eccl. 10:12).
The biggest reason why we need to exercise great care in how we speak is because God will hold us accountable for our words. “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matt. 12:37). We’re supposed to be shining lights of Christianity (Matt. 5:14-16). People are always watching and listening. The Apostle Paul instructed, “Let your speech be always with grace…” (Col. 4:6). Further, “Let no corrupt speech proceed out of your mouth, but such as is good for edifying as the need may be, that it may give grace to them that hear.” (Eph. 4:29).
We should be careful to think before we speak and realize some things just don’t need to be said. We also need to remember the continual presence of that little birdie…
Gary L. Hutchens