We have all grown up in a world that places little value on a person’s word. People say things that aren’t true, make promises they do not intend to keep, say cutting things designed to hurt and belittle.
The attitude seems to be summed up in the expression, “Talk is cheap.”
But is it?
When God spoke, mountains arose and the covering seas were pushed back from the land throughout the world. When God spoke, plant, fish, bird and animal life was created upon the earth. When God spoke, humanity came into existence.
When God speaks in judgment, He speaks with a sharp, two-edged sword (Revelation 1:16, 2:12), clearly distinguishing between good and evil works. That sword is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17).
Hebrews 4:12 explains: “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
If words are so powerful and so important to God, should not they also be important to us? With words we give answer to our accusers, discover and reveal error, admonish relatives and friends to avoid evil, reward loved ones and praise our Creator.
Those in positions of responsibility and authority make rules, reward achievers and punish the slothful — all with words.
Also with words, God’s Church is to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God.
Our words can be sharp. They are capable of cutting to the heart of a matter. With God’s guidance we can use words to promote good and avoid evil, but if we are malicious or careless in what we say, we err exceedingly and betray a trust our Creator places in everyone He calls.
True Christians are often shocked by man’s inhumanity to man, yet sometimes we speak words to one another that bear that same violent animosity.
James asks: “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:1-2).
In modern vernacular, people seek their own desires. Instead of turning to God for guidance as obedient children under His authority, people take matters into their own hands. When someone blocks their goals, they become frustrated and develop resentments and hatreds.
David prayed, in Psalm 64:2-3: “Hide me from the secret counsel of the wicked, from the insurrection of the workers of iniquity, who sharpen their tongue like a sword, and bend their bows to shoot their arrows — bitter words.”
Murder statistics from various nations reveal the shocking fact that most murders occur within the home. Certainly, most of us would not think of ourselves as capable of slashing our loved ones with a sharp sword or shooting them with arrows, but to chop someone up with bitter, hateful words is akin to assaulting him with a deadly weapon.
Spiritual wounds, which may never heal, threaten the eternal lives of spiritual brothers and sisters just as certainly as fleshly wounds threaten their physical lives. Of course, if you’re on the receiving end of these sharp swords and arrows, you cannot often change what others say about you. But the hurt that results from these stinging words may make you guard your own words more diligently.
If you have been wounded by words, you must not allow the wound to fester. If you even suspect that you harbor ill will toward anyone, pray that God will reveal it to you and grant you repentance in order to help you root out this contrary spirit. A root of bitterness can be spiritually fatal (Hebrews 12:15).
The spiritual mirror
If you look into that mirror of righteousness, the Bible (James 1:23-25), and find yourself guilty of abusive words or irresponsibility with your tongue, what should you do?
If you have been guilty of bitter words with your loved ones, or if you have indulged in gossip — that ugly practice of telling things about others that hurts their reputation or that keeps sins from being forgotten — or if you have used verbal knives against your competitors in business, what should you do?
Ultimately all our sins are against God. Seek Him with a “broken and a contrite heart” as David did in the 51st Psalm, and He will forgive you: “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions” (Psalm 51:1, 17).
Repeated sins build habits
Deeply established habits of gossip or misuse of the tongue cannot be broken with just a simple resolve to quit. You may need to fast and pray many times that God will not only forgive you but will help you to repent and to replace evil, destructive speech habits with wholesome, constructive ones.
When God has answered your prayers and granted you repentance, you won’t need reassurances; you will know by the change that has come over you. But you will need to keep vigilant. It is easy to slip back.
You will also find yourself deeply concerned for those who might still be hurting from your actions — people who could be harboring ill feelings to their own detriment.
Now you should follow the admonition Christ gave in Matthew 5:23-24: “If you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
God will not accept your gift of prayer with this offense hanging over your head. It will affect your conscience until you do the right thing about it.
But when you go, go to your brother solely to bind up that wound. Don’t go to demonstrate what a good person you are or to try to justify what you did. Go with a pure, sincere, loving heart.
Misused, our words can cut deep wounds, but spoken thoughtfully, sensitively and honestly, they can also go a long way toward healing those wounds and building better relationships.
Source: The Good News, 1984