“1 Save, O Lord, for the godly one is gone; for the faithful have vanished from among the children of man.
2 Everyone utters lies to his neighbor; with flattering lips and a double heart they speak.
3 May the Lord cut off all flattering lips, the tongue that makes great boasts,
4 those who say, “With our tongue we will prevail, our lips are with us; who is master over us?”
5 “Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan, I will now arise,” says the Lord;
“I will place him in the safety for which he longs.”
6 The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground,
purified seven times.
7 You, O Lord, will keep them; you will guard us from this generation forever.
8 On every side the wicked prowl, as vileness is exalted among the children of man.”
I remember the first day of 6th grade, like it was yesterday. Yes, it was some time ago, but I’ll never forget the effects of my insensitivity. I was sitting in my seat, working on an assignment when they walked up to my desk. “Doesn’t Theresa look pretty today?” I looked up, recognizing the girl who had had a crush on me since last year. She was kind and quiet. She probably did look nice that day. In fact, I could tell she had done something different with her hair. Her friends were clearly trying to help her come out of her shell and help us make some sort of connection. Unfortunately, she had two major things working against her. First, I was a middle school boy – no interest in talking to girls. Second, my words and wit were faster than my reason and restraint. “NO,” I said loudly, so that my friends could hear. You can surely imagine the cacophony of responses to that one simple word. The girls gasped, the boys laughed, Theresa…ran off. It wasn’t until years later that I truly considered the effects of my words. Insensitive and unkind words spoken in haste. I’ll never forget.
Since the earliest pages of Scripture, humanity has used its words to bless and to curse, to tell truth and untruth. The psalmist knows this, intimately it seems. In Psalm 12:1-4, the author says, “1Save, O LORD, for the godly one is gone; for the faithful have vanished from among the children of man. 2Everyone utters lies to his neighbor; with flattering lips and a double heart they speak. 3May the LORD cut off all flattering lips, the tongue that makes great boasts, 4those who say, “With our tongue we will prevail, our lips are with us; who is master over us?”
Language, in the sense of spoken word that communicates thoughts and feelings, seems to be a chief distinctive mark of humanity. However, this wonderful gift of God is often used perversely. Words are often used as vehicles for achieving evil goals. In the words of James 3:10, “From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so!” James points out the incredible power words have previously in that chapter. James 3:2-5 says, “2For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. 3If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 4Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!”
As followers of Jesus, we have a responsibility to use the power of our words to honor and glorify God. I’m sure this goes without saying, but we conveniently forget in certain circumstances. For instance, I tend to ignore that fact when I’m faced with the opportunity to make people laugh. Some of us ignore that fact when we are emotionally charged, others when we are hurt.
Let us be people of integrity in word and speech. Let our written and verbal legacy be remembered as God-honoring and pure. Let’s make the necessary changes now, to maximize our influence as Christ’s ambassadors.
Prayer for today: Lord God, help us honor You with our words. Make our speech to be full of righteousness and wisdom. Give us restraint of speech and a desire to listen. We love You. Amen.