I’m going to be honest. There’s a lot in Proverbs that I don’t understand – analogies and references to things we no longer use/say/do. This means a lot of confusion and a lot of research. However, there’s a lot (thankfully) that I do understand too. As I’ve been studying this book of wisdom, I’m realizing just how much there is to glean – archaic references and all!
An important area in which we need wisdom is with communication. How do we use our words? For what purposes do we use them? And no, I’m not referring to the “purpose” of exchanging information. What is the motivation for our words? What do we hope to gain with them? When should we use our words? When should we not? And where do we even begin to find the answers to these questions? Perhaps this is a good place to start:
Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. | Proverbs 18:21
Do we believe these words to be true? If we believe in the Word of God, then we know these words are true. But do we live like we do? Do we live like we believe that “death and life are in the power of the tongue?”
We often fail to see the power of our words, which is much of the reason for a lot of the hurt in this world. We say what we shouldn’t; we don’t say what we should. We speak when we should stay silent; we’re silent when we should speak. We find words in the midst of our anger, frustration, or pain and then we tactfully organize an attack at the most “opportune” time – which, in all honesty, is just a euphemism for the perfect time to maximize damage.
We use our words as self-made thrones first, swords second, and shields third. Less often do we use our words to heal, comfort, forgive, love, or show grace. Sure, we have our cliche “Christian moments” when we do use our words for good. But in those moments, is our motivation pure? Selfless? Sincere? In comparison to how often we use our words for selfish gain, the moments we use it for good are hardly even worth mentioning.
Perhaps our problem is that we view words as tools given to us, for us.
Yes, words make life a lot easier. As expression-dependent as we are these days, the absence of language and communication would render life almost unbearable. But what if the reason God gave us words has less to do with us, and more to do with Him? What if words are His blessing to us, a tool He entrusted to our hearts and minds and lips for HIS purposes, for HIS service, for HIS glory?
I don’t believe God gave us words solely to meet our communication needs. I believe He has a greater purpose for the words He has blessed us with.
A purpose that is all about Him.
I know this sounds a little crazy and over-the-top… but I think it only sounds crazy because it’s so… opposite from what we know, from what we’ve been taught.
Society encourages us to use our words cunningly, shrewdly, manipulatively, misleadingly. The world tells us to be vague when it benefits us, to be clear when it honors us. Present culture teaches us that words don’t matter – except when they do. So where does that leave us, as believers?
It leaves us confused and torn between conforming to the world or finishing last in the world.
Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” | Mark 10:29-31
If finishing last in this life
means finishing first in the next,
If we are mindful of our words for Christ’s sake and for the sake of the Gospel, if we are attentive and obedient to how God desires us to use this tool, will we not be blessed in Christ?
If humbling myself to use my words for the benefit of others means I am considered a fool in this world, that’s okay. I am eager to share in the humility of Christ (Philippians 2:5-11). If denying myself of speaking in anger and frustration means I am setting myself up to get “run-over” by people, that’s okay. I am eager to share in the sufferings of Christ (Philippians 3:7-14).
Every time we open our mouths, every time we write out our words, every time we sing a song, we are wielding a power given to us by God. The question is: