Words, once put out there -- well, they can't be forgotten. Choose your words wisely.
"Sticks and stones may break my bones,
but words will never hurt me." Who thought up that clever little ditty? It may roll off the tongue, but it is such a lie! Words do hurt.
The tired mother hurls, "Oh, I am so sick of you! You're so lazy-why can't you be more like your brother? I'm not sure you are ever going to amount to anything!" Ouch. Did she just say that? She collected herself later and went back into her 13-year-old son's room, saying, "Hey, you know I didn't mean that, right? I was just exasperated-had a hard day, right? Sorry, Bobby." "Yeah, okay, Mom." But do you think it was really okay? Heck no. His mother's words would replay over and over in his mind.
Words that have been spoken, words that have been heard, can never be un-heard.
"Hon, maybe you could take off a few pounds, huh? I saw Stacy at the gym the other day, and she's looking good; don't you want to go work out? It wouldn't take much, but you would look good if you lost some weight." The husband didn't even notice that his wife almost visibly winced... and the impact of his words? Well, she could not get them out of her mind.
That's because words matter . . . they truly do.
In a few short verses, Jesus had a lot to say about what we say.
"A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad. You brood of snakes! How could evil men like you speak what is good and right? For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart."1 One thing about Jesus-he did not mince words. He said what he meant, and he meant what he said. Jesus never had to go back to folks and say, 'hey uh, guys, you know I was just a little worked over by the crowd-sorry I was so rough on you.' Look again at Jesus' words- If a tree is good, its fruit will be good, because like the psalmist said, 'a tree planted by streams of living water bears good fruit.2
What you think about,
what is in your heart,
will eventually find its way to your lips.
Jesus concludes his thoughts with serious warning:
"And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you."3
Yikes, can I tell you that these verses have kept me awake at night?
you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak ---
Uh oh. So how about if we stop, take a breath, before we speak? How about if we, like James suggested, are 'quick to listen, and slow to speak'?4
Interpersonal communication is more involved today that it has ever been in the history of humanity. So much of our words are now sent via some sort of electronic means-text messaging or e-mailing, for instance. Never before has there been so much room for misinterpretation, misunderstanding. Therefore, we must be judicious and prudent--i.e. wise-about what words we use. Since we oft cannot see the other person's face or hear the intonation of their voice, there is so much room for miscommunication. Cellular phones have changed the face of conversation. From a psychological standpoint, while these devices are increasing social connectivity, they are decreasing healthy social connectivity and interfering with human interaction that fosters intimacy and closeness.5Indeed, while we save time on one hand by telecommunicating, on the other hand, we lose a lot in the process. Makes me think of the simple word of advice, "Let your words be few,6 from Ecclesiastes.
Take a look at what Paul told the church at Ephesus: "Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouth but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."7 Oh, that we may not just read these words, but indeed take them to heart, and be more careful with what we say.
A prayer: O God in Heaven, move us-indeed, inspire us to want to be like Jesus who spoke only what the Father gave him to say.8 Cause us to stop and think before we say things that might injure another or dishonor you. You were the author of speech, so teach us to craft our speech a little more carefully, Creator God. Amen.
To conclude, I cited seven Bible passages (below) about the content of our hearts and words. Look them up, and meditate upon them. Ask God to transform first your heart and then your speech.
1 - Matthew 12.33-35, NLT
2 - Psalm 1.3
3 - Matthew 12.36-37, NLT
4 - James 1.19
6 - Ecclesiastes 5.2
7 - Ephesians 4.29
8 - John 5.19