Your speech can betray you

Published 8:52 pm Monday, July 11, 2016

By Michael Brooks
Brooks is a pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church and adjunct instructor at Jefferson State Community College.

The lady behind the counter listened to my request, and then made a simple statement, “You’re not from around here, are you?”

I was on a trip recently above the Mason-Dixon Line and I suppose it was clear I was from the Deep South!

We Southerners don’t really notice our speech patterns but we do notice those from other regions. And sometimes our nativity is revealed through the truisms we speak.

Vivian Ekberg of Ohio was a fellow officer in a political collectors club a few years back. The group customarily has a Saturday evening banquet with former president Jimmy Carter.

Our meeting is late September and the president’s birthday is October 1, so we’ve celebrated a few significant birthdays with him — 75, 80, 85 and more recently, his 90th. Vivian was our secretary at the time and called to ask my blessings on her plans for the cake. She told me what kind of cake she’d ordered and when she thought the cutting should be in the banquet program.

She’d only just begun when I said, “Vivian, I don’t have a dog in that fight. Do what you think best.”

“A dog?” she said. “What does that mean?”

What I meant was I trusted Vivian to do the right thing and she always did a beautiful job without my input.

I learned this is a Southern idiom apparently unknown north of the Ohio River!

The scripture tells a familiar story in all four gospels. Peter “followed afar off” when Jesus was arrested and lead to trial. He got close enough to see what was happening and to listen for information.

He also got close enough to warm himself at a fire someone had started.

Ministers of a generation ago used to preach about Peter “warming by the devil’s fire.” But at least he was close by. The other disciples had scattered.

Peter had minimal conversation with his compatriots around the fire, but enough conversation for them to know he wasn’t a Judean native.

“You’re with Jesus,” one said to him. “We can tell you’re not from here. Your speech betrays you” (Matthew 26:73).

Peter denied knowing Jesus in order to save his own neck, and confirmed these denials with cursing.

At that moment the rooster crowed, and Peter wept his heart out knowing he’d denied the savior.

Our speech betrays us, too. It’s relatively insignificant which section of the country we’re from, but it’s very significant that our speech is pleasing to the Lord.

Not only are we to speak words of truth and kindness, but we’re enjoined to speak words of witness to those who don’t know the savior. Jesus must be lord of all, including our tongues.