The power of our words

Proverbs 25:11 “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” 

The Bible tells us that our tongue, although one of the smallest members of our body, is perhaps the most powerful member of our bodies with which to do both evil and good.  The book of James warns us of the bad with these words: “The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.  The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell” (James 3:6). How true this is. Just think of the destruction that can result from just a few words, be they lies, unjust criticism, or other words that convey negativity towards or about another person.  Sometimes the damage can be lifelong. Sometimes the damage can destroy a relationship that is never restored.  

But then, the tongue can also be an instrument of tremendous good.  As the words above tell us, a word fitly spoken is a beautiful thing.  This is such good advice as we consider what to say either to other people or about other people.  Have you ever been a recipient of “a word fitly spoken” that was a tremendous encouragement to you?  I recall to this day six words that were spoken to me by someone who approached me on the Southern Illinois University campus over 40 years ago.  As I was walking across campus on the way to class, a person who I had never met before came up to me and said “Do you know that Jesus loves you?”  The fact is that I did know that, but this was the first time in such a setting that anyone had ever said something like this to me.  It was an encouragement to me that someone had the boldness to say something like that to a complete stranger, and it was a blessing to me to be reminded of such a great truth.  

There have been other times when, out of the blue, while I was dealing with an illness or some trial of some sort, that people have said to me, “I prayed for you today” or “Our church prayed for you last night.” What an encouragement this was to me.   While I was on a short-term mission trip to Russia many years ago, I still remember a time of worship with one of the churches there as those precious believers told our group, “We are praying for you.” I still remember those encouraging words which gave me an awareness of the thoughtfulness of these Russian believers towards us, their American fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.  

We have many examples of the apostle Paul’s loving commendation of individual believers throughout Scripture, particularly in the greetings that came at the end of his letters. As he closed his letter to the Colossian church, he mentions Tychichus, “a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord.”  He mentions Mark and Justus, who had been a comfort to him in prison. He tells of Epaphras, who was “always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in the will of God.”  And he mentions his fellow servant Luke, “the beloved physician.”  All of these commendations were “words fitly spoken, like apples of gold in a setting of silver.”  

What about you and what about me? Do we make a practice of speaking such things to people and about them – or is gossip more of a habit with us, words that are the opposite in their nature and effect?  May God give us the wisdom to use our tongues in powerful ways that bring joy, hope, and encouragement to others.  It is just such opportunities we have as believers to be instruments that God can use to bless others by our words. May we be a source of “words fitly spoken” to bring glory to the One who saved us, encourages us, and constantly blesses us by His own wonderful words. May we love others with our words, following the example of Jesus, Who first loved us.

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