Have you ever thought how powerful words can be? In his chapter called “The Discipline of Tongue” Pastor Kent Hughes tells this story to remind us!
In 1899 FOUR reporters from Denver, Colorado, met by chance on a Saturday night in a Denver railroad station. Al Stevens, Jack Tournay, John Lewis, and Hal Wilshire worked for the four Denver papers: the Post, the Times, the Republican and the Rocky Mountain News.
Each had the unenviable task of finding a scoop for the Sunday edition. They hoped to spot a visiting celebrity arriving that evening by train.
However, none showed up, so the reporters wondered what on earth they would do. As they discussed options in a nearby saloon, Al suggested they make up a story. The other three laughed - at first. But before long they were all agreed - they would come up with such a whopper that no one would question it and their respective editors would congratulate them on their find.
A phony local story would be too obvious, so they decided to write about someplace far away. They agreed on China. "What if we say that some American engineers, on their way to China, told us they are bidding on a major job: the Chinese government is planning to demolish the Great Wall?"
Harold was not sure the story would be believable. Why would the Chinese ever tear down the Great Wall of China? "As a sign of international goodwill, to invite foreign trade."
By 11 P.M. the four reporters had worked out the details, and the next day all four Denver newspapers carried the story - on the front page. The Times headline that Sunday read: "Great Chinese Wall Doomed! Peking Seeks World Trade! "
Of course, the story was a ridiculous tall tale made up by four opportunistic newsmen in a hotel bar. But amazingly their story was taken seriously and soon ran in newspapers in the Eastern U.S. and even abroad.
When the citizens of China heard that the Americans were sending a demolition crew to dismantle the Great Wall, most were indignant, even enraged. Particularly angry were members of a secret society made up of Chinese patriots already against any kind of foreign intervention. Moved to action by the news story, they attacked the foreign embassies in Peking and murdered hundreds of missionaries from abroad.
In the next two months twelve thousand troops from six countries, working together, invaded China to protect their countrymen. The bloodshed of that time, born out of a journalistic hoax fabricated in a saloon in Denver was the time of violence known ever since as the Boxer Rebellion.
What power the written or spoken word has! Nations have risen and nations have fallen to the tongue. Lives have been elevated and lives have been cast down by human speech. Goodness has flowed like a sweet river from our mouths, and so has the cesspool. The tiny tongue is a mighty force indeed.
Quoted from “My Spirit pp. 47-48.
What can we do? Colossians 3:9"Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices." (NIV)
How do we change? STOP THE OLD HABITS
Discipline yourself to tell the truth. Truth must become a habit. Honesty becomes something we do without thinking. Habitual integrity is the goal of our lives.
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