David, Henry and Alan, three little boys, were visiting their grandparents. David went over to his grandfather and asked, “Can you make a sound like a frog? His grandfather, being a little cranky, replied, “No David, I don’t really want to make the sound of a frog right now.”
Next, Henry went over to his grandfather and asked, “Papa, will you please make a sound like a frog?” Once again, his grandfather said, “No Henry, not now. I don’t really want to do that. I’m in a grumpy mood. Maybe later.”
Lastly, Alan went over to him and said, “Papa, oh please, please, please will you make a sound like a frog?”
“Why do all of you boys want me to make a sound like a frog?” their grandfather asked. David replied, with a hopeful look on his face, “Well Grandpa, Mommy told us that when YOU croak, we get to go to Disney World!
We all know that our children grow up to model what is modeled for them. They need to be taught the power of their words.
Unfortunately, sometimes these little ones receive conflicting messages. When our three sons were young, the church we attended held monthly potluck dinners. The line formed with the eldest members first, so you can imagine my surprise when I looked up and saw my four and five-year olds at the head of the line. Although I was holding their infant brother, I managed to pull the two away from the crowd and told them that the first would be last and the last first. (And yes, I probably should have done a little more explaining.)
You can imagine my shock at the next potluck when Adam ran to the head of the line and grabbed a plate. Not a little embarrassed, I yanked him aside and asked if he remembered what I had told him at the last church social.
With a confused look, he answered, “You said the first will be last, so I went first so I’d really be last. What did I do wrong?” I would like to tell you that that was the last time my words did not reflect Christlikeness, but that is far from the truth.
Sometimes our words do not produce the outcome we desire.
Sometimes, like the three boys with their grandfather, too many words can have disastrous results.
Other times, like my time at the potluck, not enough words can lead to misunderstandings.
James 3:5 reminds us of the importance of speaking with wisdom: The tongue is a small thing, but what enormous damage it can do. Perhaps that’s what my friend had in mind when she bought a plaque for me that read “Keep an arm around my shoulder, Lord, and a hand over my mouth.” That prayer could keep a lot of people out of trouble. Trust me. I know.