I learned that words were important when I was a small child. Mom was forever teaching and reminding us of words that were “ok” to use, words that were absolutely “off limits”, and words that caused harm. When we used words that were “off limits” there were consequences that came. Often it would be some restriction like, “go to your room”. Sometimes it meant a privilege was taken away.
When we used words that were harmful something different happened. That required an action. As siblings, we were never allowed to say hurtful things to one another without reconciling. There were different ways we had to do it, but it was always face-to-face, clear words of apology; clear words of restoring relationship; and signs of peace. We had to do it many times! She must have grown weary at our slow learning curve, but she never showed it; and she never let the teaching moments pass unattended.
I learned that words have power when I was an adult. Important is one thing; power is another. The words of a leader initiate action. The words of a prophet challenge and inspire. The words of a child humble us when we take time to listen. I’ve regretted words I spoke and often wished conversations had been handled differently. Sometimes in moments when I needed my words to be eloquent and polished, they have stumbled out of my mouth disordered and looking for a landing place that I forgot to prepare. What grace is needed in those moments!
Jesus talks about words a lot; sometimes silencing those who are blaming and other times speaking peace and order into chaos. Jesus speaks and the wave obey him! Jesus speaks and people rise up from condemnation! Jesus speaks and people ponder things in their hearts.
It is amazing that God created us with mouths and minds and hearts from which words are formed and shared. Words that have power. Words that bless. Words that condemn. Words that distract. Words that distort. Words that speak truth. Words that speak lies. Words that offer joy. Words that make room for peace. Words that heal the greatest divides.
“But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgement for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” – Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew 12:36-37
What are we doing with our words? I do wonder what power we might release in the world if we simply surrender our words to God and ask for help before we use them…
God, we will speak and write many words today. We know you hear and see every single one. You are in this with us every moment. Please help us to use words that honor you and bless your people on earth today. Tune our ears to receive truth and let noise pass. Align our hearts to you so that we are able to discern and accept your wisdom when it is offered. We surrender our words to you today. Amen.
Zach Williams & Dolly Parton: There Was Jesus