When I was in the Fifth grade, my lunch time consisted of a group of boys gathered around a table. We would have put down contests and Yo Mamma joke contests. Each day two boys would be chosen, one from each side of the table, and they would trade put downs until one ran out of them or one of them started crying. When one boy won, two more would be chosen and it would continue. I learned to be quick witted from that, but I also learned that putting down others was funny.
We were just kids, but we were finding out how powerful words could be. Just by saying certain things, you could make someone laugh or cry. We were too immature to understand the power of those words and the ability of them to stay in someone’s mind with the potential to define them. I don’t know what happened to the rest of the boys at that table, but I hope they learned how to use words to build others up instead of tearing them down. The words we speak to others are so powerful that we shouldn’t treat them lightly.
Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you” (GNT). This should be the standard we use when talking to others. Before we speak, our filter should ask, “Will these words do good or cause harm?” God is in the business of building people up. As His followers, we need to be doing the same. I’ve still got work to do in this area, but my prayer is that God would help me to use my words wisely so that they provide what is needed, do good to those who hear them and build others up.
Photo by Cole Hutson on Unsplash
When I was a child, we used to sing, “The wise man built his house upon the rock… The rains came down and the floods went up… And the house on the rock stood firm.” Of course there was the verse where the house of the man man who built on the sand went splat! The song was taken from the parable of Jesus in Matthew 7:24-27. Jesus spoke of the importance of having a good foundation in construction, in life, or in anything really.
If you’re going to build anything, it’s only as good as the foundation it’s on. Ive read that when they build skyscrapers, they usually have to dig down until they hit bedrock. Sometimes they have to dig up to 150 feet so they can build it on a firm foundation. If they don’t do that, nothing else matters. When the winds hit it or any other storm does, it will come crashing down. You are I are building more than a skyscraper. Were building a life.
Storms are going to come. We will all experience them. That’s why having such a good foundation is important. Proverbs 10:25 says, “When the storms of life come, the wicked are whirled away, but the godly have a lasting foundation” (NLT). Storms not only test what you’re built on, they reveal it. Even if a storm wipes out everything you’ve built, if you have a sure foundation, you can build again.
So how do we build a strong foundation that lasts? Before Jesus told the parable, He said, “Anyone who listens to my teachings and follows it is wise, like a man who built his house on solid rock.” It’s not enough to just hear or know what Jesus said. You have to obey it and live it out. You can build your life on God’s Word because after heaven and earth pass away, His Word will still remain. It is truth. It is life. It is a firm foundation that won’t give way when the storms come.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten in trouble after saying something. The first question to me is usually, “Why would you say that?” My response is, “I don’t know. I wasn’t thinking.” I speak so much that sometimes I forget that I need to pay attention to them before I let them leave my lips. As a result, I’ve said some pretty hurtful things to people. Those words could have been chosen more wisely or better yet, left unsaid. Once words leave our lips, we can’t get them back again or undo the damage they cause.
On the other hand, I’ve had some people speak words to me that have brought healing to some of my deepest wounds. Their words have brought hope into my hopeless situations, lit up my dark paths, and built me up when I’ve been down. Their words were wisely spoken at just the right time. My prayer has been that I would be that type of person. I want to be someone who uses my words to bring healing instead of pain.
I’ve been reading Proverbs since I was a kid. I can tell you that Solomon understood the power of words. Over and over in that book, he tries to get us to see just how powerful they really are. One such example is in Proverbs 12:18. He wrote, “Thoughtless words can wound as deeply as any sword, but wisely spoken words can heal” (GNT). Many of us can attest to how deep someone’s thoughtless words have hurt us. As they echo in our mind, the wound gets deeper and a root of bitterness can easily spring up in that environment.
It’s critical for each one of us to choose our words wisely. Whether we are responding to someone who has hurt us with their words or we are just having a conversation, our word choices matter. We can’t afford to speak without thinking. We can pray each day and ask God to help us to choose our words wisely so that we bring healing instead of pain. The power of life and death truly is in our words. Never take that lightly.