I married young -- very young -- too young, but the convictions and passions that drove me were strong and real -- at least to me -- at that time. I was naive, but sincere. I know now, as a senior citizen, how the "old folks" view some of the up-and-coming generation's enthusiasm. But what a shame it is when one of those cynical elders, the ones who should be training, leading, encouraging, guiding, that youthful enthusiasm, instead turns a sharply-critical tongue. What a lasting, and often damaging, impression they leave behind.
I still remember the day I was in attendance of a community-type church meeting of some sort. Can't tell you anything about that day or its purpose, but I remember the view from the seat in my mind's eye as clearly as if it were yesterday. About two rows up there was one such cynic seated. Having dedicated his entire life to church work and the ministry, I gave him the respect I felt he deserved -- until he opened his mouth and spoke. His comment, directed at we of the younger generation in attendance, was, "These young fireballs! When they've been at it at long as I have they won't be so excited."
That poor man! He was tearing down what he believed he was investing his whole life in. For now, almost 45 years later, his words still echo inside my head, and I loathe his discouraging remarks. I know God judges all fairly, but I often wonder how that man came out when he met God, for surely he is long departed from this life by now. How did he account for even that one statement? Because the Bible does say, God thinking it important enough to record three times (Matthew 18:6, Mark 9:42, Luke 17:2), "But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!" (Matthew 18:6-8 KJV) I thank God this didn't discourage me in the least, and that I didn't "stay at it" as long as he did and lose my joy in my salvation, but I had a strong foundation beneath me. What harm or destruction did his hapless remark, or other such statements in different settings, inflict? What young man did he discourage from becoming what God had intended him to be? What young woman, struggling already, did he steer toward a path of doom?
It is so difficult to overcome the sinful nature within, and it is so very easy to say the wrong thing at the right time, but it would behoove each of us to remember that, "The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit." (Proverbs 15:4 NIV) It is like the song we learned as small children says; it hasn't changed, "Oh be careful what you speak, little tongue."
"Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!" (James 3:5 KJV) And, "From the mouth of the righteous comes the fruit of wisdom, but a perverse tongue will be silenced." (Proverbs 10:31 NIV)