A Word About Words


I’ve been thinking a lot about words lately. Maybe it’s because we’re in an election season and social media has erupted in a volley of venomous posts.

Maybe it’s because I was asked to speak at a women’s gathering recently and a friend challenged me to “bring a message of hope and promise.”

Maybe it’s because I’ve personally witnessed what can happen when words are casually tossed about, taken out of context or twisted by an enemy’s tongue.

Whatever the reason, I’ve been thinking a lot about words. When something angers us, we’re bound to express our anger in words. When something or someone hurts us, the content of our hearts will come spilling out of our mouths. Jesus told the Pharisees, “For whatever is in your heart determines what you say” (Matt. 12:34).

Words have been a source of sin from the beginning of time. Eve sinned because she had a conversation with Satan (Genesis 3). The Israelites sinned when they grumbled and complained (Num. 14:1-3). The third chapter of James clearly describes the sinful nature of the tongue.

And lest we become smug on those times when we refrain from speaking a sinful word, we must not forget that Jesus said it’s what’s in our hearts that matters. If thinking lustful thoughts is tantamount to committing adultery, surely thinking sinful thoughts is tantamount to speaking the words aloud. We simply cannot have sinful words floating about in our minds without them impacting how we behave. Jesus said, “But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander” (Matt. 15:18-19).

I must admit that when church members hurt my husband and me, I had a battle on my hands. Actually, I had a battle in my mind. That’s where words festered as I thought about what had been done to us and what I wanted to say in return. My mind is where I held imaginary conversations with those who had caused us grief but those conversations served only to intensify my pain. They never brought about healing. Sin never does.

And so, as I’ve been thinking about the power of words, two verses keep going through my mind. The first is Matthew 12:36. It should scare the socks off of every Christian: Jesus said, “And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak.”

And so it’s with the psalmist that I pray, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14). Not only the words that I speak, Lord, but the words that I write and the messages that I post, text or email. My all of my communication be acceptable and pleasing to you. Amen.

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