Like a coating of glaze over earthenware are fervent lips with an evil heart. Proverbs 26, verse 23.
We used to live in Colorado Springs. In that city, there is a company called Van Briggle Pottery, where they produce some of the most beautiful pottery you’ll ever see. Van Briggle’s has been around since 1899, and is famous for producing pots, vases, and designs in very subtle shades of earth tones, turquoise, and even a light purple. The company’s founder, a man named Artus Van Briggle, perfected a glazing method similar to that used in ancient China, producing pottery with a satin finish that is protective, silky to the touch, and almost mysterious in how it reflects light while enhancing the color of the clay.
Such things don’t last forever, you know. They are of the earth and will, in God’s good time, return to the earth; just things, not permanent. Pottery artisans design, mold, and fire for permanence, seeking to make things that will last a long time. In doing that, they use olden-times techniques to protect the clay they shape for years of heavy duty use. The next time you pick up your dinner dishes, or buy a new flower pot at Lowes, remember that the process to make those modern day goods is little different from that used four thousand years ago in Mesopotamia. The potter selects clay, then colors and molds it on a wheel using primarily tools and water to achieve a shape. The molded clay is allowed to dry, then colored or painted further. A glaze is applied to protect the clay, then it is fired in a kiln to transform the translucent glaze into a protective shield. Once cooled, voila: pottery.
It’s that glaze that can be deceptive. Like the Van Briggle’s pottery, it is the glaze that protects, shields, deflects water and light, and has feel to it. No wonder the author of the proverb used it as a metaphor for what we say and why we say it. Like that mysterious finish the Colorado artists produce, warm, feeling, intense words can protect and shield what lies beneath…or what lies are beneath. The words can feel smooth on the surface, silky and magical, tempting to hear. Beneath that is what they mean. That’s where the proverb is urging caution.
You know the maxim; it may be as old as the proverbs: if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. Some healthy skepticism is in order for everything we hear and read, even these messages. “What does that mean, Lord” and “what are they really saying” are, in my opinion, the first, best questions we can ask to discern meaning. What is he saying, Lord? Do words and actions line up? Is the speaker saying one thing but meaning another? What about those non-verbal signs that contain 80% of our communication? Could what’s being said contain a mixed message, sounding good when it hits the eyes or ears, but also containing subtle poison for our souls? If we don’t ask these things, what we take in through those eyes and ears could make us sick deep inside.
The cure? Let your yes mean yes and your no mean no. Christ said that. Words written, said, or spoken always pass His litmus test, revealing their nature. When His Spirit discerns intent, it always does so honestly, exposing the nature of words so that we can understand what He wants us to do with them. Those two questions can help us cut to the chase and cut through the fluff. What looks or sounds beautiful on the surface may indeed be beautiful underneath. Or what looks or sounds good on the surface may just be a mask to hide evil intent so that said intent might take root in your heart. Yes, skepticism is in order but, in this case, it’s a healthy skepticism placed at God’s feet and asking Him for His help so that we might say and do what is right.
If you enjoy such artwork, then take a trip to Colorado Springs and visit the Van Briggle gallery. Or, check for them online at http://www.vanbriggle.com. My mom has several of their pieces; when we lived in town, the Van Briggle factory store was a regular stop during her visits. A few weeks back, we were in town and drove by the old shop, which was closed down. That made me sad, but then some research showed they simply moved to a new location; gotta love living in a recession, you know? I like the look and feel of their pottery, and if you come to my house, you’ll find a few pieces here as well. When I look at them today, I’ll remember God’s verse and think about how that coating on the surface protects the time and love put into the craft. And when I read or listen or hear words today, I’ll try to be a bit more skeptical, asking Him to reveal what He’s telling me, then following along where He wants me to go.