To “call a spade a spade” or “call a spade a shovel” is a figurative expression which
refers to explicitly calling something as it is, by its right name. The implication is that one tells
the truth about the nature of the thing, speaking frankly and directly about it. E. Cobham Brewer,
in his Dictionary of Modern Phrase and Fable (1870), defined it in 1913 as being "outspoken,
blunt, even to the point of rudeness", adding that it implies ones calling "things by their proper
names without any 'beating about the bush'".
In our quickly changing world, we use less offensive words or phrases to describe objects
or actions in an effort to be politically correct. And I suppose it has had its desired affect on
society, but I also have to question as to what we are missing in the process of being so
politically correct. Have we become so intent on being less offensive that we no longer recognize
when things aren’t as they should be?
As a young band director, I was intent on making sure I did not hurt the feelings of any of
my band students. I wanted to make sure they all had a very positive experience with music. So,
during rehearsal when things didn’t quite sound right, I would stop and vaguely criticize the
group, “You are not playing it correctly.” That leaves a lot of possibilities as to why a section of
music wasn’t sounding as it should. The music would continue to be played incorrectly until I
specifically identified the source of the incorrect music. The second trumpet player didn’t like to
be singled out, but had to be if the music was ever to sound as intended. Yes, I had to “call a
spade a spade”!
The Lord’s church is expected to be a holy people (1 Peter 1:14-15), so that the world
can see a “better way” to live so as to glorify our heavenly Father (1 Pet. 2:9, 12). Unfortunately,
it seems that we have become more intent on making friends, while avoiding hurt feelings. I’m
not suggesting for a moment that we go out of our way to hurt feelings, but I do believe we need
to get back to “calling a spade a spade”. The apostle Peter “called a spade a spade” when he
accused Ananias and Sapphira of lying to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5). When Simon, the sorcerer,
tried to obtain the gift of God with money, Peter “called a spade a spade” and accused him of
not being right before God, demanding he repent of his wickedness (Acts 8:9-24).
Yes, feelings were hurt, but Scripture also bears out that the church grew from day to
day. Perhaps we have for too long tried to be “politically correct” about sin. Sin in the eyes of
God is still sin, no matter the slant we choose to use. Let’s get back to “calling a spade a spade”!
~P. Mowrer (to be continued)