Everyone loves lists!
But some lists should never be made.
There’s a quasi-new, list-style article-type that everyone with a keyboard is taking a hack at. It’s the “_____ Number of Things Never to Say to ____________.” Here’s an example: “9 Things Never to Say to the Parents of a Newborn.”
In this particular article you will learn that the number one thing you should never ask a new dad is if he’s getting much sleep. The third thing you shouldn’t ask is how his wife is doing. If I take any cues at all from the author’s vitriolic sarcasm, I am led to believe that these are obviously asinine things to ask since . . .
“She’s fantastic. She just pushed a watermelon through a hole the size of an orange. She’s never been better. In fact, she might just run a marathon next weekend on a whim. Instead ask, “I hope your wife is recovering well, what’s one thing I can do for you so that you can have a little bit more time to take care of her?'”
Of course, this advice contradicts the number two thing you should never say which is “Let me know if I can do anything for you.” Hmmm.
Is it true that newbie parents could be tempted to be annoyed by immature thoughts like “I just got a puppy, so now I know what having a baby is like“? Definitely. And ridiculously unsanctified questions like “Is having a baby worth all you give up for it?” should never be uttered by anyone who desires to glorify God with his life
But here’s the problem. There are two types of people in the world, those doing the saying and those doing the hearing. Unfortunately it’s not the “sayers” who’re writing the articles, it’s the “hearers.” This is problematic because everything that anyone might say to me (that I don’t like) becomes fodder for such an article; even if what they’re saying is good and I’m just in a bad mood.
“I’m feeling unsanctified right now. Someone say something I don’t like so I can write a new list!”
I know it’s really easy to rally around “What Not to Say to A Miscarriage Survivor” or “13 Things Never to say to a Mother,” but most of these articles have very little to do with God’s truth. We rally around them generally because we put ourselves in the “hearer’s” shoes, and we acknowledge that it wouldn’t feel good to hear them. We don’t stop to gauge the response we’re supposed to have in light of God’s Word. And we definitely don’t give the “sayer” the benefit of the doubt!
As an example, I’d love to see how most parents would feel about an article written by a child called “12 Things Never to Say to Your Daughter About Her Junior High Boyfriend.” How do you think most adults would react to an article from a convicted felon entitled “6 Things Prison Guards Should Never Say to Rowdy Inmates.” Wouldn’t it be great to see how many bosses would share “23 Things Never to Say to your Unproductive Employees“!
Do you see my issue?
My mom always told me, “It doesn’t matter what anyone says, and it doesn’t matter what anyone does, you’re responsible to God for your own reaction.” Most of these articles are not written because the advice in them will greatly help anyone spiritually; they’re written because the author is sick of hearing the things we’re supposedly never to say . . . whether they should be said or not.
I enjoy these articles much more when the author doesn’t have ulterior motives in writing it, and their observations are biblically informed. Normally the only people who write such articles are the “sayers.” Otherwise most of the stuff that we’re “not supposed to say” are actually innocuous – or worse yet – very necessary, potentially Christ-honoring things . . . but the author/”hearer” is just not in the mood to hear it.
Crankiness and oversensitivity are never going to help the “sayers” or the “hearers.”
For those of you who want to take back the Bible and apply it to every situation we encounter in life, consider Paul Tripp’s words in his amazing book, War of Words. He’d just finished about three and a half hours of being verbally eviscerated by two people who definitely were saying “A Bunch of things Never to Say to Your Pastor,” when he said . . .
“I don’t know when I have felt so wronged or so wounded. I told Luella that I didn’t want to quit the ministry, I wanted to die! I called my brother, Tedd, wanting him to dress my wounds. I wanted him to tell me what a good guy I was and how I didn’t have to listen to this awful couple. But he told me just the opposite. Tedd said, ‘Pay careful attention, Paul. God had you in that room for a reason. Whatever evil they meant is not nearly as important as the good that God is trying to do in all of this.’
The people in my life are not there by accident. they too, are instruments in the hands of my Redeemer. Through them he continues the work he has begun in me.”
People who accept the beauty of God’s sovereignty in their lives don’t write articles fertilized with bad attitudes about the people God uses to conform them to His image. They encourage each other to love and good works.
Are there things we definitely should NEVER say because they don’t glorify God? AMEN and AMEN! But, consider your motivation the next time you start compiling such a list. Your first priority should be to check your own heart.