Word Dysfunction: An Epidemic
Proverbs 18:21- Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.
Something struck me after listening to a recent sermon at church. Pastor Rob Bugh at Wheaton Bible Church has been giving many sermons recently on the book of Proverbs, and this past Sunday’s message was especially powerful*. Pastor Bugh told us that within the book of Proverbs, the topic of how we use our words is spoken about more than any other topic.
Why could this be?
Probably because our culture suffers chronically from what seems to be “word dysfunction.”
I have learned the following things about the use of words:
ONE: Words have power.
Think about how the words of others affect you. Has someone ever said something to you that brought you down? Did you overhear someone speaking about you in a negative way that really crushed your spirit? Proverbs says the following:
Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up. —Proverbs 12:25
It may sound cliché, but it is true that one kind word can change someone’s outlook on a situation. Imagine that you were trying very hard taking piano lessons, and your teacher mentioned that perhaps you should take up another hobby. How would this affect you? How would it be different if that teacher gave you praise for your efforts? One simple phrase of “Thank you for applying yourself so hard!” can make or break someone else’s spirit.
Your. Words. Have. Power.
Lets use our powers for the good of others. Tell a co-worker you appreciate their efforts. Let your loved ones know that you care deeply for them. Tell your spouse how thankful you are for the small things they do for you. Even small changes in the way you speak can have a profound impact.
TWO: Negative talk is rampant in our culture.
How often do you gossip? Think about it….and be honest.
This is one trap I know I find myself slip into much more often than I should.
The book of James says this:
6 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.
7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
The Lord hates gossip, for gossip itself is rooted in a place of… well… poisonous hate.
We need words. We need relationship. In our culture, we look so often for validation through the words of others in those relationships. Sometimes we want the assurance that we are “accepted” so much that we will use our words to tear others down in order to believe that we “fit in”. Have you ever been guilty of this? Truth is that at some point in our lives, we will all most likely fall into this relational trap!
Pastor Bugh’s recent sermon helped me to see that words have power in this way: Our words embody our thoughts. Saying our words out loud makes our thoughts tangible. When what you think becomes what you say, you solidify within yourself what you truly believe. Each time you state something, you reinforce that idea within yourself, making it more and more a part of who you are.
THREE: Kind/wise/gracious words do wonders in our world.
Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. —Proverbs 16:24
What are “wise words” according to scripture? They are gentle, not harsh. They are encouraging, not discouraging. They are spiritual, not superficial. They are full of kindness, not full of hatred. They are humble, not proud. They are full of wisdom, not full of foolishness. They bring healing, not destruction.
I don’t know about you, but I need daily reminders in order to ensure that my talk is indeed “sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” When it may be our first instinct to say something harsh, may we be reminded of how our words can affect the thoughts and feelings of others - and ourselves.
I think about madmen, and about how the use of words must have affected the recent bombers in Boston, Massachusetts…I think about how destructive leaders throughout history have repeated hateful words to make others believe lies...I think about how words have the power to radically change what others believe…
If what you repeat becomes who you are, then let us speak the truth in love. Let us give thanks for a gracious God that forgives our linguistic failings, and who knows our hearts deeply and wholly. Let us strive to speak as Jesus spoke, with words of wisdom, love, and grace. Let us wage war against the cruel words of our world, and speak with sweet and restrained tongues, proclaiming His goodness to the people of every nation!
Gracious Lord, Oh, how the tongue can be so cruel! We thank you, Lord, for sending your son Jesus to be a perfect example of how to live. Jesus, you spoke with such wisdom and grace. Help us to become “Little Christs” and to tell others of the truly wonderful things you have done for us. No sweeter words than those of your story, Jesus, could ever be spoken.