Grinding Axes

There are two meanings to the phrase “an axe to grind.” The first meaning is the traditional American one, which means having an ulterior motive or personal reasons, other than the obvious, for doing something. The British meaning is to hold a grudge or a grievance against someone or something. The term comes from the grinding of axes using a grindstone. Axes were first made of wood and stone, then came to be composed of the best metal available to the person. They are used for splitting wood, felling trees and various other things. They are also a weapon of aggression.

Anyone can be guilty of grinding axes and minister’s of the gospel need to be especially careful. When one offers a strong personal opinion about something in which they forcefully try to make others accept he is grinding an axe. The pulpit is no place to grind our axes. For a man of God every message and public word spoken to “God’s” people should be given through much prayer and consolation. Often it takes more courage and boldness to restrain ourselves and our speech than it does to let our opinions fly. Even if we are right grinding axes can be harmful and dangerous to the flock which in itself belongs to God. There are times when under a heavy load of conviction a minister must speak sternly and with great boldness but one who carries an agenda is often grinding his own axe. The problem with grinding too many axes is sooner or later mortal wounds will be inflicted. Jesus spoke very sternly to sinners and the Pharisees’ and occasionally rebuked the disciples but his messages were always saturated with love.

Caution should be exercised because even when we are led of the Lord to address something because tones and mannerisms can easily be misinterpreted. So what if people get mad at you so long if you’re in the right? They got mad at Jesus didn’t they?

Take note that anger poisons congregations. A minister who goes on the defensive can become bitter and his preaching will be harsh and graceless and in an effort to reprove he actually crushes the hearts and spirits of those to whom he has been entrusted. It’s bad enough when church members bring active, unresolved anger into the congregation. It’s even worse when the carriers of such ill-will are leaders of the church.

One may pride himself on bluntness or boldness but a word not spoken in love will never be heard!


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