The playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton wrote, “the pen is mightier than the sword.” The best writers and speakers know that words, whether positive or negative, hold power. Word choice can make the difference between a merely adequate piece of writing and one that is flush with detail and zeal. Words carry enormous power, the power to heal or to wound, to encourage or to dishearten, to speak truth or to deceive, to praise or to criticize. They can be the key to our success or the reason for our demise.
Unfortunately, the early children’s rhyme, that many know so well “Sticks and stones can hurt my bones, but words can never hurt me” by now most know this childish chant is not true at all. A stick may bruise our body for a time, but words can bruise our spirit for many years to come, even a lifetime. This little short rhyme was probably born out of defiance of hurtful epithets, while the wounds went deep into the soul. To understand the power of words we have only to look at a mother cuddling a child, with words in whispers of love and comfort.
The power of words do not change much when we become adults. Words do hurt. Jesus calls us to bring the gospel, the Good News, to all people, there is no one excluded. Thus, we must learn to communicate with words that do not wound. Our words have power: power to hurt, power to heal or to wound, to encourage or to dishearten, to speak truth or to deceive, to praise or to criticize. They can catapult us into greatness or cause us to plummet into an abyss. They can often be the difference between a life saved and a life lost. In James 3:10 we read, “Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing.” My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening?”
If you were to fill a pot with rice place it on the stove, cover it and turn up the heat, it will boil over and undoubtingly, rice will spill out. We are reminded in Luke 6:45 “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Consider an angry outburst of two people as they allow raw emotions to spill out in argument. Angry words spill from an angry heart. A profane person uses vile speech. Just as with the pot of rice, turn up the heat and whatever fills the heart of a person will eventually spill out of their mouth.
A loving person speaks gracious words of love and goodness. Those we meet can tell if we are true followers of Jesus by our speech as well as our actions. Our “speech” reflects our “conversation” because it shows what is in our hearts. The word conversation in the New Testament does not refer to our speech as much as our conduct or behavior as in Ephesians 4:22 “That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;” Our speech and conduct are very closely related and both can enhance or destroy our witness.
We read in James 3:8 “the tongue can no man tame”. Fortunately, for us, the Spirit of God in our lives can control even the most unruly tongue. It is no coincidence that God chose the tongue as a sign of the infilling of His Spirit. As manifested in Acts 2:4 “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” As we yield ourselves to Him, we also yield control of our speech patterns. In order to communicate effectively and respectfully, it is necessary for a person to observe the terminology used by given groups themselves mirroring that language. The Apostle Paul, writer of more than half of the New Testament, in 1 Corinthians 9:22 said by inspiration of the Holy Spirit: “To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” God Himself set this very example by speaking to us in the terms of human culture from the beginning of time, as we know it. In Jesus He became man in order to communicate with man.
Man should always say as the Psalmist in Psalm 19:14 that “…the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD”