I love words. I love new words, old words. I love them all strung together to make an exciting story or a beautiful love song. I love it when they are used correctly and spelled correctly. I am not, however, a fan of intentional misspellings of words in business names, such as “Kidz Tyme” or “Krispy Kreme”… no wait. I am totally fine with Krispy Kreme. Totally fine, you deliciously fried and glazed confection!
Words are a gift. As a nurse, I am always profoundly sad to see a patient who has lost their use of words. Strokes or other disease processes can rob people of their ability to speak words. Even when this loss is temporary, it puts the patient in a very precarious spot. A patient with Guillian-Barre syndrome, for instance, can lose their ability to speak while having complete cognitive function. They fully understand their surroundings and situations, and yet they are unable to convey or contribute verbally to their situation.
God knew the blessing the gifts of language and speech would be to humanity. The ability to communicate to each other through words was going to be invaluable to humankind. God also knew that what He meant to edify, would in time, be turned and used to wound. He warned us of the great power in words and how none we speak fall dead to the ground. We may regret speaking harsh or unkind words, but they are forever, those words.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue… Proverbs 18:21
The Bible speaks strongly to the believer who has lost control of his tongue:
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. James 1:2
I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak… Matthew 12:36
Stan Lee wrote this famous line in his Spiderman story:
“With great power, comes great responsibility.”
These were important words for Peter Parker aka Spiderman. We would do well to hear their message even if we don’t wear spandex. God so understood the power of words that Scripture is full of instructions for their usage. The power of positive word use is so great that we are even instructed to use our words to bless the very ones who persecute us. (Romans 12:14) Wars begin and end with words. Relationships do, too.
We have all been wounded by the words spoken from the mouth of another. We know the power of the spoken word is no myth. I’ll bet we can all remember an unkind word spoken to us or about us in our distant past. The enemy loves it when others use words to tear us down. Those go right into his arsenal to use against us again and again.
We really have got to stop giving him that ammunition. We are told in Ephesians (4:29) to take care that no corrupt talk comes from our mouths, but instead we are to speak words of grace.
I’ve been heavy on the Scripture citing in this piece. Yet I have merely scratched the surface of what the Bible has to teach us about words. Can we tolerate one more? Matthew 15:18 communicates that the words that come from our mouths originate in our hearts. Words are a window to our very core. They are a reflection of what’s really going on deep inside of us.
Alone, we are helpless to tame our own tongues. (Factoid: As I have been writing this piece, my own tongue has waged a battle for control against me.) So we must commit the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts to Him, so that in our dealings with people we reflect His grace, and His mercy as the words tumble out of our mouths. Let us be slow to speak and quick to listen. If someone speaks harshly to us, listen. Hear the torn places in their hearts speak in the words they say. Only then will you be able to respond not in kind, but out of the abundant love and mercy of the Father who has the power to heal even the most damaged of hearts.