Saturday, April 16, 2011

16 APR 11: The New N-Word

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: You may find this topic humorous, serious, or a mix of both - but we offer these thoughts from time to time, as we keep a seventh-day Sabbath.)

It's happened again, for at least the second time this year. I clearly offended someone by asking a simple four-word question. Can you guess what it might be? If it will help, "Boxers or briefs?" is only three words.

The latest offense occurred in a quick exchange of late-night online messages. A man asked me if I had a minute - and I made the mistake of responding: "What do you need?" The man answered by indicating that question was inappropriate. So much for that old line at convenience stores, "We all got needs...."

"I don't NEED anything. Goodnight," the man wrote me - and that was that. The very same response came from someone who telephoned me in January [24 Jan]. In both cases, the offended parties were conservative men - so please don't tell me "politically correct" speech is only a Democratic thing.

I suppose the proper "front desk" response to the men should have been something like, "How can I help you?" I'm not even sure they would have accepted "What do you want?" That might have sounded like a protester outside a state Capitol building.

While I'm learning my lesson from these two men and passing this warning on to you, I'm not really sure why that four-word question should be offensive. To borrow from the old TV series "The Avengers," I've been needed by people many times. It could be to help cover breaking news, give a destitute man rides to job interviews -- and in rare cases, even bring something safe like ice to a church picnic.

Perhaps the word "need" offends people because it sounds like "needy." They don't want to be connected with anyone who might live in poverty - even though I doubt they had their own bank accounts at birth.

If these men really don't need anything, I'm happy for them - but I can't really say I belong in their group. I need all sorts of things every day. I'd list them all here, but I'm getting enough calls from telemarketers already....

Then again, perhaps those men say they "don't need anything" because they have God. The Biblical book of Philippians says He can meet all our needs -- but I've heard ministers add God doesn't always meet your "wants." It's like praying for a new Cadillac, while your neighbor is selling a nice-running two-year-old Kia.

But a section of Revelation 3 has a warning to church members who say they "have need of nothing." Jesus bluntly told that group it was wrong. To spot the things we really need, all of us should take time to examine our lives in light of the Bible. If you don't have one, the list of commandments across the street from the Harris County Courthouse is a good place to start.

The biggest thing I need is a Savior who will forgive my sins and provide hope for eternal life beyond my physical body. Thankfully, God provided that already - and this weekend, some Christians will remember Jesus by taking part in the New Testament Passover or "Lord's Supper" service. Our groups will drink real wine on a Sunday evening, whether the Georgia Christian Coalition likes it or not.

So I hereby apologize to anyone who's ever heard me ask them, "What do you need?" I never realized until this year that the phrase could be so offensive. But when you're dying, I hope you won't keep thinking you need nothing - because absolutely nothing may be all you get.

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