Well into the 20th century, coal miners brought caged canaries into coal mines as an early-warning signal for toxic gases, primarily carbon monoxide. The birds, being more sensitive to a toxic atmosphere, would become sick before the miners were aware of danger giving the miners time to put on protective respirators and escape. So, music to a miner’s ear was the canary singing cheerfully meaning there were none to very little toxins in the air.
This begs a question that we must ask ourselves. Does my life produce a positive, healthy atmosphere for others, or am I toxic emanating a judgmental, insensitive, self-centered atmosphere? How would I know? Is the canary singing? Are the people around you (especially your wife and children) happy, productive, and growing in their faith and do they enjoy your company? If the canary is not singing, it’s time for you to humbly ask God and others close to you, why? It may be time for you to grow and change.
Ephesians 4:29-32 gives us clear direction how to keep the canary singing:
- Verse 29 instructs how to engage others, “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 may benefit those who listen.” Engage others with wholesome words, not with crude, rude, hurtful words “according to their needs” not yours.
- Verse 30 commands us, “do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.” To be what God wants us to be and deal with others in a wholesome way, we need the Holy Spirit to be free to work in us and through us. If not, carnal living ensues causing a mess in our homes and close relationships.
- Verse 31 identifies the elements of a toxic environment and tells us to get rid of them, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” I am afraid too many of our homes and work environments breathe the air of these unhealthy toxins. There is no way the canary can sing.
- Verse 32 describes how to clean up our venomous environments, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Each of these characteristics will encourage the canary to sing. They are full of grace and mercy. “Kind and compassionate” are always focused on the needs of others and act in a manner that is sensitive, healthy, and edifying to folks who live around us. “Forgiveness” is the lifeblood to all relationships. We hold no grudges quickly clearing the air from toxic attitudes.
Can the canary sing when breathing the air of your marriage, relationship with your kids, extended family, friendships, business relationships, and church community? With the Holy Spirit guiding, get rid of the relational toxins becoming kind, compassionate and always forgiving. If so, “the canary will sing” beautifully and cheerfully.