When 'Good Morning' is a Bad Word
by Katherine Britton
If a man loudly blesses his neighbor early in the morning, it will be taken as a curse. - Proverbs 27:14
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. - Ephesians 4:29
I am not a morning person.
My college friends and I still joke about the semester our intrepid Bible study (we were studying Romans with just about every denominational background represented) decided it was a good idea to change our meeting time to Saturday mornings. My nocturnal habits often made me the least inclined to drag myself from repose, and I confess that I used the "I think I'm coming down with a cold" excuse more than once. On one such morning, another member of the group decided she would jumpstart my lethargic spirituality. While I was groggily ignoring my roommate's gentle encouragement to come to Bible study, she walked the dorm room, threw open the curtains to the sunshine, and loudly proclaimed, "GOOD MORNING, KATHERINE!"
I have no idea what I said in response, but I'm sure it wasn't Christian.
I respect my friend's abiding faith in early bird philosophy, but I was delighted a few months later when I discovered Proverbs 27:14. The Message clarifies the verse by putting it this way: "If you wake your friend in the early morning by shouting ‘Rise and shine!' It will sound to him more like a curse than a blessing."
I immediately told my friends that my discovery. I had found concrete evidence that God was not a morning person.
Of course, the verse's real point deals less with God's waking hours and more with speaking wisely. Proverbs once again brings the focus back to the power and timing of our words when we relate to other. The funny illustration demonstrates that wisdom is more than a wholesome word or truth. Wisdom is also a truth aptly spoken.
Sunday School has drilled the catchphrase "Speak the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15) into our heads, but even this approach can lack grace. Paul himself encouraged his readers to consider that not every word is fit for every occasion. Even the comforting promise of Romans 8:28 - that God works all things for good of those who love him - should sometimes give way to grieving when the cancer diagnosis is first announced or a loved one dies. Those are obvious examples, and the more subtle situations are myriad. But here's the lesson I take away from this verse: We're supposed to consider the impact on our hearers. Wise words do more than offer the right word and expect our friends to recognize its truth even if we choose an inopportune moment. Instead, I have to recognize that the right word offered at the wrong time might as well be a curse instead of a blessing.
I take comfort in knowing that I don't have to spew every nugget of knowledge at every pertinent encounter. We're not supposed to be somebody else's Holy Spirit, convicting them of every errant or off-color word. Nor are we supposed to be perpetually perky saints, walking around singing hallelujahs all the time. There's a place for bold ministry, but too often I confuse boldness with my very human need to "say something" - and the results are rarely "good for building up" or "as fits the occasion."
Intersecting Faith & Life: Don't be the neighbor who yells, "Good morning" too loudly. Let's encourage each other with words that "will give grace to those who hear" this week. Our goal is not to make others see our point of view or our wisdom, but to build each other up with the love of Christ.