Psalm 73:3–9, James 3:5–10, Matthew 12:34

Out of the overflow of the heart….Matthew 12:34

If you follow college football, it is very likely that you saw the picture of the female South Carolina fan who lifted her perfectly manicured right middle finger in disgust after her Gamecocks lost a 13-point lead in the final seven minutes to lose to Missouri. After Missouri’s go-ahead touchdown, her act of frustration was captured by the ESPN camera, and the screen shot will be on the Internet until there is no Internet. In the screen shot a teenage boy (her son?) is standing near her. One blogger posted, “Mom?”, as if that was what the boy was thinking. Imagine the punch in her gut when she found out from her friends that her picture had gone viral.

I felt badly for her, and I kept thinking about her dilemma. When I saw it happen on the telecast, I leaned forward as if I didn’t believe what I just saw. In fact I cringed. I don’t know who she is, whether she just laughed it off and went on about her business, or whether she lay awake on Monday morning at 3 a.m., thinking, “What have I done? Why did I do that?” I don’t know if she is a Christian or if she knows to ask for forgiveness.

Now you and I messed up this past weekend, too. But the difference is that our outbursts played out in obscurity in the privacy of our homes, schools, workplaces, and stadiums with no ESPN camera focused on us. The tongue (or finger) weighs only a few ounces, but the damage it does cannot be measured. The Bible assures us in Romans 6:23 that sin is sin, and the wages of sin is death. All sin is an affront to God. \But here is a lesson to be learned. If you are in the public eye or in the eyes of others at school, at work, or at church, it only takes an instant, one slip of the tongue, to cancel years of integrity, trust and goodwill. Your reputation can be ruined.

You and I should thank God every day for his mercy, that we don’t receive the full measure we deserve for the times we have committed sinful acts. But they won’t go unpunished forever for the unrighteous. Psalm 73 assures us that the unrighteous will receive their punishment, for we serve a just God who does not turn his back on any sin, large or small. Neither does Christ. Christ hated sin but loved us so much that he died for our sins so that we could be forgiven.

When your heart is right with God, you will be able to catch yourself much more often before you say something you never thought you would say, or do something that you never thought you would do. You would instantly give anything to have those words or that action back. You desperately want to erase the slip that makes some people say, “He (or she) did that? And he (she) is supposed to be a Christian!” Train your mind daily, and guard your heart with Scripture so that the overflow of your heart is kindness, compassion, love, and peace.

Prayer: Father God, I know that only one person has ever failed to react in unrighteous anger, and that is Jesus. Help me live so that I minimize those times that I sully my reputation as a Christian and bring dishonor to the name of Christ. Help me guard my mind and actions with your holy Word and prayer so that I can be in right living with you. In Jesus’s name, amen.