Meet Kevin Offner
Today I would like to feature a guest who has some challenging words to say about the way we use our tongues. Kevin calls for readers to consider a different kind of fast during this Lenten season. It is an appropriate challenge for all of us and with his permission, I reprint his words. Kevin is on staff with Intervarsity Graduate Christian Fellowship and does campus ministry at Georgetown University. He and his wife Amy and their son David live in Washington D.C.
One of the strongest indicators to other people and to ourselves of what we are really like on the inside is how we use our tongue. The kinds of words we use, the amount of words we use, our tone of voice, what we say in response to another person’s words or actions—all flow out of hearts that are agitated and insecure, or quiet and at peace.
In the Book of James we are told that the tongue is quite a powerful part of our bodies. Like the small rudder of a big ship, how we use our tongues can have an amazingly big impact on other people, either tearing them down or building them up.
Perhaps one of the hardest disciplines in life is to learn to be quiet. When someone says something critical to me, I want to say something critical back to them, whereas to remain silent feels like a mini-death. When someone seems to misunderstand what I’m doing, I want to use words to justify myself, and to say nothing makes me feel out of control. I want others to notice and appreciate me, so I’ll often draw attention to myself with my jokes or verbosity.
Let’s fast today from using words to criticize others or to justify ourselves before others. Let’s think before we speak. Let’s take inventory of how much we use our tongue as a primary means for seeking to be in control of our lives, and instead quietly ask the Lord to be in control of our day today.
When we do speak today, let’s choose to speak words of edification and thanksgiving. Let’s think throughout today of specific things we have to be thankful for, in other people and in God, and let’s thoughtfully choose to express these words of gratitude at appropriate moments.
Fasting from words of criticism, cynicism, self-justification and self-glorification, and exchanging these words with either gratitude or silence, will remind us of how much we need our Lord’s help to be the kinds of sons and daughters that He’s called us to be. If what we say outwardly is a good indicator of what we are like inwardly, and if what we say is often not pleasant, it will remind us of our need for the Lord to change our hearts—something, ultimately, only He can do.
"Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for edifying, as fits the occasion, that it may impart grace to those who hear…Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, always and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.”
Ephesians 4:29; 5:18b-20