Take the Next Right: Talk or Trash

Kim CrabillBy Kim Crabill5 Minutes

Have you noticed the unsightly truth that we cannot drive anywhere, on country lanes or urban highways without noticing trash on the roadways, hanging from tree limbs, blowing across the open fields? It seems we can certainly be good at ignoring today’s sign.

Hello everyone and welcome to Take the Next Right, our series that literally takes the Scriptures to the streets and the streets to the Scripture, to the highways and the byways, all to see how God can strengthen our walk by using everyday road signs to guide our daily spiritual walk. Have you guessed what sign we are talking about today? I bet you have.

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Because of the debris along the road, we can see that someone, perhaps many someones, have ignored the “No Littering” road sign. But let’s think beyond the streets for just a bit today, because not all litter hangs out by the side of the road. There’s another kind of litter that’s even uglier and even more destructive. Dr. Willard Galen, clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, wrote these words and please listen carefully.

“Expressing unwise words in the form of anger, meddling, gossip, malice is nothing but a form of public littering.” Have you ever thought about that before? Words as litter? Certain words echoing in our minds, coming out of our mouths, coming out of someone else’s mouth and aimed at us, deface our inner landscape like litter defaces the outdoor landscape.

Roadside litter can choke out the natural life around it. Verbal litter can choke too. It chokes a person’s potential, her dreams, her drive, her sense of value. People who litter don’t care where it lands as long as it’s out of their way, but I can guarantee you it will always land somewhere. Our words always land somewhere too. That person next to you in class who seems socially odd, the co-worker who cries too easily, the neighbor with a hard shell.

What littering words have landed on them at some point? Think about the woman from church who keeps turning down your invitations to lunch or the child on the playground who refuses to join in. The rambunctious teen who mocks everything the culture considers normal. What words are littering their minds? What words have landed on them that no one can see?

The Bible uses some vivid words to describe the kind of litter we are talking about. For example, in Ephesians 4:31 we read, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander along with every form of malice.” The rest of the story in Ephesians 4:29, where the Apostle Paul wrote, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful in building others up according to their needs that it may benefit those who listen.”

This verse hands us the process for following God’s no littering signs. As soon as littering words start to slip out, I can run it through a filter. The filter asks, “Will these words build up this person?,” which literally means “leave them better off than how I found them” or will these words fill their hearts with unwholesome litter?

I have an acrostic to help us determine what kind of words will bring life to a person. It’s built on the word LIFE. L: make sure that your words are loving. I: make sure your words inspire one another. F: forgive. Forgive those who have littered in your heart and go ask someone for their forgiveness, if you need to. And finally, E: use encouraging and equipping words.

This week, tell yourself, as often as necessary, “this is a no-litter zone. I don’t need to litter here. I need to speak life.” Then let those loving, inspiring, forgiving, encouraging, and equipping words be the words that land on those around you. Thank you so much for joining me today and I hope to see you next time right here on Strengthen Your Walk.

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