I’ve heard the words, “but don’t shoot the messenger”, tacked on to unsolicited “information” or “advice” more times than I care to count. Nearly every time it’s been said to me I’ve walked away thinking, “Well, why can’t I shoot the messenger this one time, God? I don’t even need to shoot them, just let me shake a bit of sense into them!” Because let’s face it, the “messenger” tends to come only to kick up dust and ruffle feathers. Why else would they need to ask not to be shot? You never hear anyone say, “Sandy and I were talking about how much we love your new haircut, but don’t shoot the messenger!” or, “The bosses upstairs were saying you’re doing great in your new position, but don’t shoot the messenger!” No one thinks to say those words when they are paying you a compliment or sharing good news.
I can admit I’ve been the messenger a time or two (or three) and that phrase only left my mouth when I was saying something that didn’t need to be said. Psalm 52:2-4 (NIV) says, 2“You who practice deceit, your tongue plots destruction; it is like a sharpened razor. 3 You love evil rather than good, falsehood rather than speaking the truth. 4 You love every harmful word, you deceitful tongue!” More often than not, deceit is present long before the words have left the messenger’s mouth. Deceit doesn’t begin with the words that are being spoken; it starts with telling yourself that you’re being the messenger because you mean well. Personally, every time I used that excuse, I knew it was just that, an excuse to say what I wanted to say without a second thought.
Here’s the thing about saying whatever we want to say, whenever we want to say it: we will be held accountable. Proverbs 18:21 (NLT) tells us, “21The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.” Every thing we do, or in this case say, has consequences. The question we have to ask ourselves is what consequences are our tongues causing us to reap? Are we speaking any and every thought that comes to mind without concern of whom we could be affecting? Are we aware that our carelessly spoken words will not be forgotten on Judgment Day (Matthew 12:36-37 New Century Version)? That same scripture says, “some of your words will prove you guilty.” We have to ask ourselves, what will I be found guilty of? Did I walk around causing strife? Was my pleasure in speaking words that tore people down?
Even now, knowing what God’s Word says about gossip and idle talk, I still have to bite my tongue sometimes. I have to remind myself that it’s not my place to teach the messenger a lesson. I also have to remind myself of the many times I was the messenger and someone could have taught me a lesson! Psalm 39:1 (NIV) says, 1I said, “I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth while in the presence of the wicked.” David wrote this psalm as he remembered the covenants he made with God. He promised to be mindful of all he does and says, even when tempted by sin. Like David, we have to remember the promises we have made to God. Even though it is so easy to react and respond to wickedness, we can’t.
We can’t “fight fire with fire” by speaking death to those that speak death to us. Ephesians 4:29 (NIV) “29Do 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.” I believe these are some of the most basic instructions we could ask for. I put emphasis where I did to serve as a reminder to myself and others that our words are meant to edify one another. We’re meant to speak life and encouragement, to strengthen each other’s faith (1 Thessalonians 3:2-3). And in those moments when you find yourself slipping into the role of messenger, pray about it! Read these scriptures and the many others that give instructions as to how we should speak. Last but not least, pray for the messengers! Pray they are blessed and have peace. Pray they have healing and joy. Pray that whatever drives them to embrace being the bearer of bad news is broken and that they are free.
This week’s blog was written by Amber Boggs. If you’d like to contact Amber, you can email her here.