The saying, “mind your p's and q's” is widely understood to mean to pay attention to detail and to be careful to avoid easy to make mistakes. The origin1 of the saying is less certain. Several suggestions are offered. 1) The letter p and q are similar and can easily be transposed, so be careful. 2) Pints and quarts were to be tallied accurately at English pubs. 3) English sailors were to be attentive to the way they wore their pea (jacket) and queue (wig). 4) French dancers were to be careful regarding their pieds (feet) and queues (wigs). 5) Children were to mind their please and thank you's. Regardless of the origin, the application is universal - be attentive and careful, especially when it is easy to error. There is also the idea that one thing is right/proper and the other thing is wrong/improper.
In the Bible we have many texts that encourage us to mind our p's and q's. Let's consider three areas to be careful we do not stray from following God when it is easy to do so.
1) Prosperity can lead to pride and forgetting God.
Deuteronomy 8:11-14 “Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes which I am commanding you today; otherwise, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them, and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and gold multiply, and all that you have multiplies, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
We have many blessings from God allowing us to enjoy comfortable lives. We have many reasons for gratitude. We need to be careful to be grateful people who do not take God's blessing for granted. Let us count our blessings, remember they are from God, and always give thanks.
2) Spiritual benefits and blessings alone do not keep us from stumbling.
1 Corinthians 10:1-13 For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness.
Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play.” Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.
Toward the end of this text we have the warning to mind our spiritual p's and q's “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.” The Israelites had seen and experience many great things from God. Yet they spent 40 years wandering and died in the wilderness because God was displeased with them. They were not careful to believe and follow the LORD. We face the same temptations as they and we need to be careful to believe and follow Jesus.
3) Use the time God gives you wisely.
Ephesians 5:15-21 Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.
It says “Be Careful.” We are commanded to pay careful attention to how we walk, as wise, not foolishly. This includes using our time wisely.
These scriptures suggest that minding our spiritual p's and q's could be associated with our Priorities and our Quiet times with the Lord. At this time when we are not able to meet together it is a good opportunity to ask ourselves what is really important to us. What are my priorities? Also, we should think about our personal times of reading, studying, and praying. Are we acting wisely in the use of our time? It is easy to drift from the Lord. We need to be be careful that we don't.
Perhaps you will want to take some time to carefully study each of the above texts.
May God bless you abundantly and make you a blessing to the people you are with and are able to communicate with.
Serving with joy,
1The suggestions are taken largely from https://www.phrases.org.uk/