Have you heard of Jack Andraka? Jack is currently doing research that will make testing for certain kinds of cancer, particularly pancreatic cancer, simpler, faster, less expensive, and perhaps most importantly, more accurate. He has sent proposals to hundreds of professors giving them details of his research and asking for permission to use their labs to conduct his experiments. Only one response to him was positive. Realistically, one can’t expect to receive completely positive responses, even if your research, like Jack’s, is ground-breaking. But Jack has received more than his fair share of rejections. Why? Because he is 15 years old. When he arrives at conferences, others assume that he is a speaker’s son who is just tagging along. Then he gets up to speak. Afterwards, the conversations change, because people then judge him for what he knows, not for how long he has lived.
Timothy was in a similar situation when Paul gave him this advice: Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young. (I Timothy 4:12) Now, Timothy was certainly not a teenager. All of the experts estimate that he was somewhere in his thirties, but in that society anyone under the age of 40 was considered young. And Timothy was certainly young compared to Paul and to the other Christians that he would be leading. The advice Paul gave, however, would apply to anyone of any age. Essentially Paul told Timothy not to let others judge him based on his age, but based on his words and actions. Paul instructed Timothy to set an example for other believers by living a life in which his speech, conduct, love, faithfulness and purity could not be criticized.
This is advice that we should all take. Live your life such that no one can find anything bad to say about you, and so that the message of God will not be discredited. (Titus 2:4-8) Spend time studying God’s word so that you know what that message truly is. Let everyone around you see the progress you are making. (I Timothy 4:15) Let your good character shine through. Let the life you live through your words and actions be a good representation of God’s love and grace.
How do you feel about practical jokes? I don’t like them. I’ve heard of people putting Nair in their boyfriend’s shampoo bottle, or putting glue on their baseball caps, things that can cause real harm and certainly real embarrassment. If each person insists on getting the better of the other, the jokes only escalate. Where do they end? Perhaps only when someone gets severely hurt.
A similar thing can happen with our words. People seem to think that it’s okay to insult, lie to or make fun of each other, as long as afterward they say that they were only kidding. This is such a common practice that in social media circles, all that is needed is "jk". Sometimes the one doing the joking makes the other feel like they are in the wrong, that they are boring and have no sense of humour. Proverbs 26:18-19 says that someone who deceives another, and then says that they are just kidding is like a madman who shoots flaming or deadly arrows. A madman shooting deadly arrows. That’s a pretty serious analogy. So much for just kidding.
Matthew Henry has said, “By lying and slandering in jest men learn themselves, and teach others, to lie and slander in earnest; and a false report, raised in mirth, may be spread in malice; besides, if a man may tell a lie to make himself merry, why not to make himself rich, and so truth quite perishes, and men teach their tongues to tell lies, Jeremiah 9:5. If men would consider that a lie comes from the devil, and brings to hell-fire, surely that would spoil the sport of it; it is casting arrows and death to themselves.” [Emphasis his.]
I think our society has come to the place where we don’t understand the value of truth or the power of our words. According to Proverbs 18:21, death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love its use will eat its fruit. James tells us that our tongue will determine our direction just as a rudder steers a ship (James 3:4-5) and that what comes out of our mouths represents who we really are. (James 3:8-11)
Who are you really? Who do you want to be? Make sure that your tongue is leading you in the right direction.