SOAP Series # 3 – Tongues of fire

I started this blog because I wanted to make my faith, in some way, applicable. I wanted to “do” something with it. Before the blog I would do that by writing down my SOAPs. SOAP is a practical method for studying individual passages of the bible. It’s an acronym that stands for:

  • S cripture – which verse or verses am I studying.
  • O bservation – what stands out to me, what do I think it means in the context of the story.
  • A pplication – how can I apply that meaning into my own life.
  • P rayer – what do I need to thank for, appologize for or ask for as a result of this wisdom.

I figured it might be helpful to take you along with my bible study, and post my SOAP notes here. Do bare in mind that these are my personal observations, and that I apply them to my personal life. I still believe you can learn something from that, if only a stronger conviction of your own beliefs.

S – Scripture

Careful words make for a careful life. Careless talk may ruin everything.

Proverbs 13:3 – Message Bible

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O – Observation

Proverbs to me often seem to be the super quotable verses, that don’t need a lot of context to be understood. And at first, this proverb seems no exception. “Think before you speak”, is as good advice as any; and has been given in many different ways. Yet, when it comes to faith, another layer gets added.

I decided to grab my study bible to see what else I could glean from that, and lo and behold, other references were made. I went on a roadtrip through other Proverbs, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, and James, with a small detour through Genesis. Most of the references I just named were one-liners like the proverbs one I started with. Except for the last two I mentioned.

James, however, goes almost on a rant for 13 verses about the dangers of thoughtless speech, and the power of words. He compares the tongue to the rudder of great ships, showing how something so small can steer something so big and potentially dangerous. Our tongues are also like tiny sparks, that turn into big flames, and all-consuming forest fires. He goes on to show his surprise at our ability to praise God, when with the same mouths and tongues we hurt other people. Not just any people, but people who are made in the image of God (the Genesis detour). And so by that extension, when we hurt people with our words, it’s like we hurt God.

My study bible makes another reference at this point, to 2 Corinthians 10:5, but that will be a SOAP all onto itself. So keep your eyes pealed for that one.

A – Application

So all in all, I have been warned many many times to carefully consider my words before I speak, since I can do a lot of damage with them. On the one hand I have always tended to overthink my words, and measure them almost too carefully. On the other hand, I have zero tact and can be very impulsive.

Something that jumps into my mind, is that I have joined a few Christian discussion groups on Facebook recently. And those groups are super divers; and include Orthodox, Catholic and all other kinds of Christians from all over the world. As I am Dutch, and grew up in The Netherlands I was raised way way more liberal than many of the people in those groups. Some of the comments and questions in those groups have almost made my blood boil. There have been a few occasions where I really had to stop myself from going on a rant myself.

I think in those situations it helps that the groups are Christian. Seeing that word, or the name of Jesus or God in the comments stops me and reminds me of something. It reminds me of how much Jesus loves me, of how much He has forgiven me for, of how He cares for me, so much that he feels my pain. And when I remember that, I am successively reminded that Jesus loves the other person, who I was about to rant against and hurt, just as much. And that he would feel their pain equally much, pain I would have inflicted.

P – Prayer

Dear Father,

thank you for the wisdom you provide. Thank you that you make it both simple and challenging. It is so easy to say that I should be careful of my words, but You know I do not always show that I am. Please forgive me the pain I have caused with my words, where I spoke before I thought or responded too quickly.

Father, please remind me often of this wisdom. Let me approach each conversation, be it vocal or online, from the deep-rooted love You show me, each and every day. Help me to see other people through Your eyes, so that I can approach them from that same place of love, and not from hurt, indifference or negativity. Lord, save me from myself, and from my impulsive nature.

In Jesus’s name, I pray. Amen.

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