Henry Ford and Idle Words

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Ever say something you wish you hadn’t? Henry Ford did. In a 1916 interview with the Chicago Tribune, the American motor vehicle pioneer said, “What do we care about what they did 500 or 1,000 years ago? I don’t know whether Napoleon did or did not try to get across and I don’t care. It means nothing to me. History is more or less bunk.” Though Ford was mostly trying to say that what matters most to him is what he accomplishes in the present, many a media source ran with the thought that Henry Ford says “history is bunk.” Ford spent many years trying to put a positive spin on those words, most notably commenting in 1919 that he would build a museum focusing on industrial history.

Controlling the tongue is a difficult task, even for the most inventive and industrious of people. Jesus reminded us all to be careful about speaking without thinking. “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment” (Matt. 12:36). Perhaps the best way to avoid idle words is not to speak too quickly. “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (James 1:19). 

Like Henry Ford, we all often regret things we say. Words misspoken can plague us far beyond the time period in which they are uttered. To avoid such troubles, we can hear and put to work the words of scripture: “Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles” (Proverbs 21:23).

Matt Clifton

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