We have a lot of railroad tracks in Kent. It’s not uncommon to get stopped by a train while out running errands on any day of the week. Sometimes if you’re the first car and can get an up close look at the train rushing past, it’s sort of overpowering. Trains are huge and pack an awful lot of power. Enough power to smash into a car and drag it for miles before just tossing it aside. And yet, when you think about it, behind that awesome power is, in comparison, a small engineer. One small man wielding and directing incredible power. That principle rings true throughout life. Often times, the largest of things are begun, influenced or even controlled by the smallest of all.
- one small snort of cocaine is so controlling that it will cause a grown man to act in such a way that he would never act otherwise;
- in the game of football it’s one of the smallest men on the team that controls the whole game; in fact the quarterback orchestrates plays and gives orders to men much bigger than him;
- if you’ve ever been pregnant, you know that when your tiny one is just the size of the raisin growing inside your womb, he or she will control your life: what you eat, how long you keep said food down, how much energy you have, whether you drink caffeinated products, what activities you do, etc....
And so it is with the tongue.
One of the smaller muscles in the human body and yet it has a huge impact on us. According to Proverbs 18:21, it holds the power to give life or death. For such a small muscle the Bible certainly does have a lot to say about it. With a little bit of study, I was able to find literally hundreds of verses on the area of our tongue or our words.
Having children has taught me a lot about my words. First, because I find myself having to bite my tongue when I am frustrated with them. But, also because I want to teach them how to use words well. How many times have you heard a parent say something along the lines of “no, Joey, we don’t talk like that.”
Sadly, the fact of the matter is that we actually often DO talk like that. And they know it. We might be more sophisticated about it than a two-year-old, but the truth is, our words don’t always bring life. In fact, they often tear down.
The ability to communicate is an incredible gift from God. The fact that we can speak and understand each other allows to share our hearts, be vulnerable, reflect on truth together, and share the Gospel with others. Verbal communication is truly a crucial foundation in relating to one another. And yet, with that gift, comes a great deal of responsibility. Because words are so crucial to our relationships with one another, we NEED to concern ourselves with them. Most of you can probably quickly think both of situations where you were encouraged and affirmed by words; and situations where you burned by gossip or sarcasm.
When I think about words that bring death, I think about words that hurt and destroy. Words that create hateful or humiliating feelings. Some examples would be gossip, slander, backbiting, being judgmental and fault-finding, having a critical spirit, boasting, lying, hurtful joking, grumbling and complaining, and using God’s name flippantly or irreverently.
Such words can cause division between friends, deeply wound a self-image, create contention & strife and even stop a work of God. Look no further than a painful church split to see what I mean.
The thing is that all of these death words are ultimately against God. Why? Because they either reveal your discontentment with a situation over which He is sovereign or with a person that He has created and called His child.
It’s really a heart issue. So, what should we do? Work harder at biting our tongues? I have found that the best guard against that which is negative is a passionate pursuit of that which is positive.
I've found a better alternative to biting my tongue.
The best way to combat death words (for you and your kids) is to dwell on life words.
What are life words? Life words lift the spirit and center on truth. Life words build-up and restore. Life words seek to glorify God and equip His Body. They are gracious and well-seasoned, even when they have to be firm or hard for the hearer.
Their effect? Proverbs 15:4 says that a soothing tongue is a tree of life. Elsewhere in Proverbs, we are told that pleasant words are sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
Soothing. Healing. Restorative. We all want to receive words like that, don’t we? And we want to offer them to the ones we love. We really do.
But it’s easier said than done, isn’t it?
Here are seven practical tips to help you in your pursuit of life words:
- Guard your heart. What you dwell on WILL spew out at some point. Regular time in God’s Word will help you focus on what is pure and true.
- Develop a posture of gratitude – it’s hard to gossip or complain when you’ve tuned your heart to sing God’s praise.
- Pause and ask yourself before you speak: Will this build respect? appreciation? trust?
- Believe the best first. Never assume you know the whole story.
- Cultivate teachability and humility in your own heart.
- Seek to understand before you seek to be understood. Talk less, listen more.
- Discern between convictions vs. opinions (aka: what is truly worth fighting for?). Your convictions should be a very small number of extremely important things.
Pondering the power of my words,
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