ref-use, [REF-yoos] (n.) – rubbish; garbage; trash; something to be discarded
ref-uge, [REF-yooj] (n. or v.) – shelter; to provide aid or protection; relief; safety
What often happens …
You are hurt by someone. A person you thought was a friend says something to someone who says it to someone who says it someone who says it (although “it” probably no longer resembles what was actually said) to you. So, you lash back. You tell someone something about that person, who tells someone, who tells someone, who then tells the person who hurt you. Now you’re even!
You see a post on Facebook that is so contrary to what your opinion is. It frustrates you that people could have such obtuse views on things that matter so much. You just have to let people know that they are wrong, that you are right, and that what they said is ignorant.
You are lonely. You are angry because of what someone did to you. So, you decide to let the world know by making a post, sending a tweet, or finding just that right “e-card” that you can put on pintrest to let everyone know that you are angry and that they should also be angry. That will show him!
You are having a bad, frustrating day. You want to make sure that everyone knows it. You think, “if life is rough for me, why is it fair that it’s not for others too?” So, you post “life sucks and then you die.”
Your spouse isn’t meeting all of your needs. You decide that it’s time for a change (meaning … it’s time for him/her to change, not you). So, as soon as he/she gets home, you unload every pent-up, negative feeling you’ve ever had during your relationship, including bringing up that mistake he/she made last summer that you “forgave.”
You are in a group at work. Some in the group start talking badly about the boss or a coworker. You can’t resist — you have to put in your two cents by telling how the boss mistreated you, how the coworker made an error, or how they are generally just icky people who don’t “deserve” respect. You don’t even realize that your stories and statements cause others in the group to join into the “bashing” as well. But even so, the boss deserved it.
You don’t agree with a decision made at church or something that the preacher said from the stage. Instead of directly going to the leaders with your concern, you send an email that will surely show him how terrible it was for him to say such a thing. He should feel terrible and now he knows that he should feel terrible!
Refuse or Refuge?
There are two diametrically opposed results from our speech — whether spoken out loud or written for others to see. Our speech can be negative; garbage that should be tossed away. Or, our speech can be positive; providing relief and encouragement.
When we take the refuse (i.e., garbage) path with our speech, we have an effect on others. Maybe others hear the garbage speech and it leads them to garbage speech. Maybe others read our speech and it taints their view of someone else or, worse yet, Jesus himself. Maybe they hear what we say and it makes them sad, or frustrated, or feel bad about themselves or others, or even angry. At times our garbage speech may cause others to not want to be around us anymore. Really, who wants to be around smelly garbage?
When we take the refuge (i.e., shelter) path with our speech, we also have an effect on others. We encourage someone who is down with a reminder that they are loved and not alone, so they remember that life isn’t so bad after all. We say thank you to someone who’s made a difference in our lives, or in the lives of others, so they know that they are appreciated. We compliment someone who rarely hears anything good from the other people in his/her life. We post something uplifting to offer hope for the day and for the future. Who wouldn’t want to be around someone who provides shelter from the harshness of the world, who offers relief from the evil that tries to attack us?
What the Bible says …
Paul writes in Ephesians 4:29: “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 it may benefit those who listen.”
That is quite a charge!
Do not let ANY unwholesome talk come out of my mouth? ANY?
Speak ONLY what BUILDS?
Focus on OTHERS and not myself?
Be a BENEFIT?
Yes, that’s what this scripture says. In short, our speech should be a REFUGE for people, not REFUSE thrust upon people.
The choice really is yours
You might think that you can’t help what you say. You might think that you can’t help cussing, retaliating, gossiping, or “sticking up” for yourself. You might think that you just won’t be able to live unless you get the last word, unless the person who hurt you is also hurt.
But, what you say, what you write, what you “put out there” for others to hear and to see, really is your CHOICE. Your words can encourage and remind people of our loving God or your words can point people toward negativity, bitterness, and conflict. You can choose the impact your words will have on other people, if you try.
Think before you speak. Think before you post. Choose to honor God in all things, including what you say. Your speech can be refuse or refuge. What will you choose?