October 18, 2012
Words: Power Tools
The mouth speaks the things that are in the heart. Good people have good things in their hearts, and so they say good things. But evil people have evil in their hearts, so they say evil things - (Matthew 12:34-35, NCV).
Friend to Friend
Words are power tools that, in the right hands and used correctly, can build and encourage. However, in the wrong hands and used incorrectly words can destroy or, at the very least, cause confusion. Life is filled with men and women who have been hurt and even defeated by words spoken in anger or words rising out of a wounded and bitter heart. In fact, many people are guilty of speaking damaging words with the ulterior motive of flaunting power or demonstrating control. It is so easy for my mouth to be in motion before my mind is in gear, and the result is rarely good or godly. The words we speak can clarify or complicate a situation. I have watched my husband, Dan, defuse an emotional bomb and avoid a potentially explosive situation with a few carefully chosen and quietly spoken words of wisdom. I have also observed him in the art of confrontation – and with Dan, it really is an art. In fact, one person told me that she was halfway home before she realized that she had just been corrected by Dan.
Church bulletins are prime examples of the confusion that misused words can cause. Here are a few real and interesting examples:
"This afternoon there will be a meeting in the south and north end of the church. Children will be baptized at both ends."
"Tuesday at 5 p.m. there will be an ice cream social. All the ladies giving milk - please come early."
"Wednesday, the Ladies Literary Society will meet. Mrs. Johnson will sing, 'Put me in My Little Bed' accompanied by the pastor."
"Thursday at 5 p.m. there will be a meeting of the Little Mothers Club. All those wishing to become little mothers will please meet with the minister in the study.”
"This being Easter Sunday, we will ask Mrs. Brown to come forward and lay an egg on the altar."
"The ladies of the church have cast off clothing of every kind, and they can be seen in the church basement on Friday afternoon."
Yes, these illustrations are humorous, but there is nothing funny about the grief that careless words can cause. Unless strained through discipline and holiness, words can impart false perspectives and untruths. However, the right word, spoken at the right time and in the right way can bring order in the midst of confusion, light on a very dark path as well as wisdom and insight.
I believe God gives us spiritual “radar” so we can assess a situation and speak the right word for that circumstance. In fact, Paul writes, “Let your conversation be gracious and effective so that you will have the right answer for everyone” (Colossians 4:6). We just need to check the “radar screen” before we speak.
Solomon offers great wisdom concerning the use of words, “Whoever controls his mouth protects his own life. Whoever has a big mouth comes to ruin” (Proverbs 13:3, GWT). If we do not learn to use and control our tongue, it will use and control us. While it is true that we need to choose our words carefully, it is just as true that the tongue is a spiritual thermometer that reflects the condition of the heart.
I am not a good patient and tend to think that most medical rules apply to everyone else in my life – but not to me. After all, I am a woman and I am a Southerland. According to my husband, it doesn’t get much tougher than that. Two years ago, I was slammed with a high fever and blinding headache that sent me to bed for days, something highly unusual for me. I called my doctor. When he heard my symptoms, he told me to come in immediately and even though his waiting room was full, he would make room for me in his already crammed schedule. His urgency was not encouraging.
The minute I walked in his office, the receptionist waved me back to the patient area where a nurse promptly escorted me to an examination room, hurriedly recorded my symptoms, took my temperature, glanced briefly at my tongue and quickly left the room. Minutes later, the doctor and a nurse walked in and stood on the opposite side of the room, almost smiling at me. At this point, I realized that whatever I had was evidently highly contagious and probably fatal. I felt so awful that the latter was most appealing.
“Mary, I am almost certain you have viral meningitis,” the doctor said. Seeing the blank look on my face, he explained, “Your abnormally high fever of 104 and severe headache are classis symptoms of meningitis, but we need to run some tests to verify my suspicions. Oh, and by the way, how long have you had the solid white coating on your tongue?” I was stunned! What coating? Why is the color of my tongue even important in determining my illness? The doctor continued, “The health of the tongue is a very strong indicator of the health of the entire body.”
The same is true when it comes to the words we speak. “The mouth speaks the things that are in the heart. Good people have good things in their hearts, and so they say good things. But evil people have evil in their hearts, so they say evil things” (Matthew 12:34-35 NCV). If my words are boastful, my heart is insecure. If my words are filthy, my heart is impure, and if my words are critical, my heart is filled with pride and anger. In other words, the problem is not really my mouth, it is my heart. As my mama would say, “What’s down in the well comes up in the bucket!”
A minister was making a wooden trellis to support a climbing vine. As he was pounding away, he noticed a little boy who had wandered into his yard and was carefully watching him. The youngster didn't say a word, so the preacher kept on working, thinking the boy would eventually get bored and leave, but he didn't. Pleased at the thought that his work was being admired, the pastor finally said, "Well, son, trying to pick up some pointers on gardening?” The little boy grinned and replied, "Nope, I'm just waiting to hear what a preacher says when he hits his thumb with a hammer."
The subject of taming the tongue is a hard one. Since communication is a gift from God, He has a plan for the right way to use it. My problem is that I tend to think my plan is better. I know. I can be arrogant … and stubborn. Someone recently sent me this prayer: “Lord, keep Your arm around my shoulder and Your hand over my mouth.” Amen!
It has been estimated that most people speak enough words in one week to fill a large 500 page book. In the average lifetime, this would amount to 3,000 volumes or 1,500,000 pages. Let me ask you a question. What kind of book did you write today for your children – your spouse – your friends and co-workers? Did you use words to encourage someone today? Join me in a fresh commitment to carefully choose and lovingly speak words of life.
Father, I can be so careless with the words I speak. Please forgive me and help me learn how to control my tongue. Create in me a clean heart, God, so that I can speak words filled with grace and love. In Jesus’s name, amen.
Now It’s Your Turn
Read Colossians 4:6. “Let your conversation be gracious and effective so that you will have the right answer for everyone.”
How would you describe words that are “gracious?”
How can our words be “effective” in the lives of others?
What do you think Paul means when he says that we can have the “right answer for everyone?”
Looking for a Bible Study? Check out Mary’s weekly online Bible Study, Light for the Journey and learn how to deal with the anger in your life. (Join now and have access to all lessons covered in 2012 including a study on the armor of God, how to tame your tongue and how to live a balanced life.) Be sure to connect with Mary on Facebook or through email.
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