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I was once preaching in the chapel of a retirement village in Yuma, Arizona. After delivering the sermon I began chatting with an elderly woman who I later learned was very hard of hearing. We were standing just outside the chapel, near a very beautiful pool table which looked as though it was not given over to a great deal of usage. I asked her if she or anyone else ever used the pool table.

She replied with a bit of a shrug of her should, which I interpreted as a no. Then I said that perhaps some time we should play a game of pool. She again gave me a shrug of her shoulder and just kind of walked away. While I thought that her demeanor was perhaps a little bit rude, I turned and walked away and really didn’t give even give it a second thought.

The next day I received a phone call from the retired Baptist preacher who I worked with in this retirement community / nursing home chapel ministry. Bill happened also to be my mentor as I prepared for pursued the ministry. Bill said that a particular woman had accused me of being a fire and brimstone preacher who had said that playing pool is a sin! She wanted me promptly dealt with.

Bill told her that sure didn’t sound like Chris but that he would talk to me about the incident. Bill and I met for coffee where I explained what I had actually said and after meeting he resolved the issue with the woman regarding her fire and brimstone preacher. The problem was quickly resolved and even if it had not been, I would still not regret its happening. It was there, early on in the ministry, that I learned a valuable lesson for ministry and for life.

We really do have to be careful what we say because words, even when misunderstood, misinterpreted, or taken out of context, can cause a lot of problems. In this instance I was misunderstood but perhaps if you are like me, there have also been times when we did use our words in careless and reckless ways which caused serious offense. Perhaps you like me do well to hear those words spoken in James chapter 3, that we must bridle our tongues for the tongue is like the rudder of a ship; it is the place where holiness is expressed or denied.

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