Words are powerful, aren’t they? I don’t know that we realize that often enough until we find ourselves at the receiving end of a few choice ones. Words have amazing potential to empower people to fly higher and accomplish more than they ever thought possible…or to make them crash and burn.
Culture Wars Ignited
In reference to our words and the tongue, James said, “How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire.” It’s true, isn’t it? Look, we’ve been witness to that just in the past couple of weeks as a national firestorm was set ablaze by a single individual stating his convictions regarding same-sex marriage. The simple fact is that words matter. They affect us deeply and have the power to shape our culture.
The Pain of Words
There have been times in my own life when I not only wanted to sock someone right square in the pie-hole who said something particularly hurtful to me, but also the dude that came up with the whole “sticks and stones” thing. Seriously? Words hurt! They have the power to make or break families, churches and communities and to either create or destroy real, godly community. They unify and they divide.
Words and Witness
Unfortunately, too often we fail to realize that our words here on earth have an impact on the Kingdom of God. With our words, the glory of God is either magnified or tarnished by what we say and how we say it. In Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus talked about our witness in the world:
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Alright, so I know this is talking about actions and not words, and it’s true, of course, that we must show our good works, but they also must be qualified by our words. Many people do “good works” digging wells, teaching people how to recycle, feeding the poor and caring for the homeless. The follower of Christ, however, may do many of the same things but in the name of Jesus Christ. Because He has shown us love, through His power, we become a blessing to other people. It’s one thing to do good works, but it’s empty if it’s not tied to the Good News that Christ has come to make all things new!
You may have read recently on Facebook or Twitter this quote by someone (it was spread around so rapidly that I never heard who actually said it): “Saying to preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary, use words is like saying feed the hungry and when necessary, use food.” It is necessary that our actions bring glory to God and just as necessary that our words back them up (and visa versa!).
How do you use words? Are you flippant with them? Do you avoid the kind of conversations and words that tarnish the glory of God in your life and testimony? Do you destroy reputations by engaging in gossip and slander or by tearing someone else down verbally? Do you get ahead, not by hard work and ingenuity, but by lying your way to the top?
You and I have the ability to build up or tear down. Choose your words carefully…and like your mom said, “If you can’t say something nice, keep your trap shut.” Well, something like that. Solomon said it like this:
“Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” Proverbs 17:28
Now, those are words to live by.