The Power Of Our Words
Talking and having conversations is one thing that distinguishes man from the animals. Our ability to communicate with the spoken word is a reflection of the divine image that we possess (Gen 1:27). Our words are meant to participate in the Word who became incarnate for us.
However, it is so easy to misuse this incredible gift of speech. We use our words to praise but then also to hurt, condemn, and belittle. In his letter, St. James spends virtually the whole of chapter 3 warning us about the dangers of the tongue. He says it is “restless evil, full of deadly poison” (v. 8) He reminds us that our words can set a great fire going (v. 6). Since the Fall, we no longer use our power of speech aright. We bless God, and then we turn around and curse men who are made in His image (v. 9).
Paul, in Ephesians 4, shows what our speech should be like. If Christ is living in us, then our speech should be reflective of Him. Paul commands us that we are not to let any “unwholesome (sapros) word” come out of our mouths (:29 NAB). Sapros has the meaning of something that is rotten. The truth is that it is easy for us to get into the habit of being uncharitable, negative, judgmental, or condemning in our speech. Our words can produce decay in others’ lives and this can be a difficult habit to break.
What helps here is to know what is the purpose of our words. Paul tells us that our words should “edify” (oidodomen), that is build up those around us. The root of this word (oidodomen) means ‘to build a home.’ In particular, we should speak to the needs of others and the situation in which we find ourselves in such a way that our words are helpful to the hearer. This means that we have to first pause and discern what is the right thing to say. This, as Paul says, is so that our words will give “grace to those hearing” (v. 29).
Our words are meant to be instruments of grace, to build up, not to tear down, not to wound or destroy. Do my words leave people with a sense of grace or do they make them feel negative and burdened? Lord, help our speech come every more under the control of your Holy Spirit that our words may become instruments of God’s healing grace to those around us.
Photo Credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/24023674@N00/3036011756/”>Peter Kurdulija</a> via <a href=”http://compfight.com”>Compfight</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>