I’ve been struggling with some sinus issues over the past few weeks and my condition worsened to the point I went to the doctor this past Tuesday. After finishing checking in, the receptionist handed me a little blue mask with two elastic strings attached to it. She said, “Because of your symptoms we are asking you to wear this.” And then she instructed me to put the mask in front of my mouth and to hook the little strings around my ears, and then I was to go and sit in the waiting area way against the west wall.
Suddenly, I realized I had just been quarantined from all the other sick people who were healthier than I was. I thought to myself, making a person wear a face mask is a funny way of identifying the really sick people. In fact if you’re going to do that, then wouldn’t an orange or red face mask be a better color to reflect the seriousness of the matter. Or maybe the quarantined section could be marked off with the yellow tape like they use in a danger zone. Or rather than making me wear mask, couldn’t they just give me a big sign to hang around my neck that said, “STAY AWAY FLU SYMPTOMS” ?
And then it dawned on me, they weren’t trying to alert the other healthier sick people to my possible life threatening symptoms, they were just taking precautionary measures so if I coughed or sneezed that my potentially virus-filled respiratory droplets wouldn’t be projected on to someone else. Yes, they were just concerned about what could come out of my mouth.
As I continued to reflect, I wondered if there were other situations when I should wear a mask in order to protect people from what comes out of my mouth. Like, do I speak words that are filled with grace, and truth, and love? Do I delight in passing on gossip? Out of insecurity, do I tear others down in order to make myself look better?
The Bible has a lot to say about the danger of what comes from our mouths. Paul exhorts us in Ephesians 4:29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it benefit those who listen.” He continues in Ephesians 5:4, “Nor should there be any obscenity, foolish talk or course joking which are out of place…[especially at work and on Facebook]”.
James wondered, “Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers this should not be” (James 3:11,10).
And just like at the Sanford Clinic, the concern they had with what would come out of my mouth was the result of something infected inside of my body. So too, Jesus reminds us that if bad stuff is coming out of our mouths, then there is something wrong in our core. “For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. 35 A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. 36 And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. 37 The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you” (Matthew 12:34-37).
Knowing we are a people of unclean lips, may it be said of us that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the prescribed medication to cure our infected hearts and may the Holy Spirit empower us to speak with a sanctified tongue—and when necessary, so as not to infect others, may we all be quick to put a mask on!
Just a precaution, Mike

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