A Clip on the Lip

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Lord, put a clip on my lip!

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day had no idea how much grief they were heaping upon themselves when they criticized the Lord. In Matthew 12 we find one of the many examples of the head-on collisions that often took place between Jesus and those who haunted his steps looking for a excuse to marginalize Him.

Jesus did miracles and they accused Him of doing those miracles through the power of Satan (12:24). This particular conversation led the Lord to remark: “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit” (12:33).

The evilness of the remarks made by the Pharisees was proof of how bad the “tree” was. Out of their mouths came what was in their hearts and Jesus warned them that all those words would condemn them one day (12:37).

The New International Version calls such words, “empty.” The King James Version uses the word, “idle.” One of the meanings given for this word in the original language is “unprofitable” or “unproductive.” Calling Jesus an instrument of Satan was certainly unproductive!

But if we apply this teaching to our own lives it doesn’t take us long to realize how much of our conversation is unprofitable. Ephesians 4:29 reminds us: “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 is may benefit those who listen.” And lest we misunderstand what needs to be avoided in our conversation, Paul goes on to list some of the words that need to be absent if we are not to offend God and put ourselves in a position to be rebuked by Him. Paul writes in verses 31 and 32: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice, Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Much of these qualities are actions, but they are also expressed in “unproductive” words. We say things to injure or to malign or to be unkind. And that is unproductive and will grieve the Spirit of God who lives in us (Matthew 12:31, 32; Ephesians 4:30).

The prayer with which I began this post looks like a pretty appropriate one to whisper constantly during the day. A “clip on the lip” is much to be preferred to the consequences that we might have to face as a result of offending the Spirit of God.

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