WORDS ARE IMPORTANT
We all use words to our own ends. A child that is caught doing something wrong quite naturally will grope for words to justify his actions. It is a temptation we all face. Throughout life man has developed a tendency to use words to camouflage the genuine truth of his heart.
For this reason, Jesus taught his disciples to keep their speech simple and straightforward. “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No;’ anything beyond this comes from the evil one,” he said. (Matthew 5:37) When we have to think twice about how we are framing our words in response to another, chances are we are looking for some comfortable middle ground between truth and error. Jesus told us to not do it! “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds this tongue is wise.” (Proverbs 10:19) Each of us are responsible for the words we speak.
Many who grow up in the contemplative culture of silence believe that the discipline of silence can be a test of truth and help bring us into a new relationship with words. Henri Nouwen noted that “silence was making him more sensitive to words.” Rather than just letting them gush forward like an artesian well, silence helped him to weigh the value of his words.
David Runcorn in his book “A Centre of Quiet,” shares how, during a time of silence at a spiritual retreat in an alpine cabin, God gave him some fresh insight on the importance of words. “I experienced what felt like a complete collapse of language. It was as if I had been making words work so hard that now in the silence they fell away from my control, exhausted and emptied of meaning. …Through it all I became aware of the extraordinary way we waste the gift of words. We use them to protect our own insecurities and we cast them carelessly around our every encounter. Twisted and emptied of meaning, we litter our lives with words.” Shallow, frivolous, empty, insincere words. When this happens, even our words directed toward God often become less than authentic.
In past generations, Celtic Christians that lived on the three Scottish Isles were simple, rural people that had a beautiful history of reverencing words. They cherished their simple prayers, their written blessings, and folksy songs and passed them on from one generation to another. Alexander Carmichael later spent years collecting these revered Celtic words for a book he wanted to publish on these people. In one interview, an older Celtic Christian man passed along a little prayer. Through the night that followed the old man hardly slept. The next morning, he walked twenty-six miles back to see Carmichael and passionately asked him to promise not to publish the prayer. Why? So revered were its words he dreaded the thought of being responsible for “cold eyes to read it in a book” and miss the true sacredness of the words. To the old man it would represent words without heart – and he wanted nothing to do with it.
Words are important. In them are the seeds of both life and death. (Prov. 18:21) Choose them wisely. Use them carefully. “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14 NIV)
Be blessed my friend.
The Barnabas Group (Loads of Love)
Proverbs 30:5; Matthew 12:35-37; James 1:19-26; 3:5-8; 10-11; Colossians 4:6