A Rebuke Of Words

I think God is telling me to be more careful with my words. I can tell because he constructed a neon billboard in my front yard with flashing lights that say “Be more careful with your words!” 

Ok, he didn’t quite go that far, but sometimes he has to repeat himself quite a bit before I get the message. Here’s how he did that this week:  

I’ve been working on a project with a vendor who has been difficult. At one point last week, I sent an internal email about the project with a snarky comment about the vendor’s pricing. My friend Tommy was on that email thread and he replied with a rebuke. He said he didn’t like the negative talk, even if it was business. 

Ouch.  

A few days later, I happened to be watching my beloved Texas Aggies play football with my dad and brother. We were bemoaning bad play-calling and needless penalties when my mother walked through the room and said, “Y’all sure are negative. How would you like it if people talked about you like that?”  

Ouch again. 

Now, I can mount a reasonable defense for my behavior in both of those stories. I do have to make judgements about vendor fees and good use of resources. And armchair quarterbacking is a time-honored tradition where I come from. But hearing reproof from both Mom and Tommy got me wondering if there was something more to the story. 

Then Victoria made it clear there was.  

On Monday at our all-staff meeting, my colleague Victoria led our staff in a time of prayer. And the thing she asked us to pray about was our words.  

Three times in one week. He might as well have built that neon sign.  

Words are powerful. We know that from Genesis and James, Proverbs and Revelation. In my kitchen at home hangs the admonition, “Don’t let any unwholesome talk come out of your  mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs.” (Ephesians 4:29) Words can build up or tear down, encourage or entrap, bring hope or despair. Words can set a course for an entire human life. And so it makes sense that we should be careful with words, that we should use them in a way that honors the Word of God and people made in his image. It occurs to me that the Living Word has accomplished two things that it would be good to me to emulate — creation and rescue.  

John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word” and that Word spoke everything into existence. It’s no accident that God spoke creation rather than building it, growing it, concocting it, or birthing it. In the Genesis creation story, the Word — not water or fire or celestial lovemaking — is the agent of creation. The Word made all things good. So I have to ask, “What am I creating with my words? Do my words bring life to things that reflect the Living Word? Do my words make all things good?”  

Secondly, the Living Word engaged in rescue. Just a few verses after his creation account, John tells us, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The Living Word infiltrated the world he created in order to rescue what had been lost and broken. The story of the gospel, authored by the Living Word, is a story of rescue. And now I ask, “Is that my story? Do my words rescue? Am I sending my words to those who are lost and broken so that they can be forgiven and healed?”  

God wants me to use words more wisely, the way he used his Word. What glorious measure of shalom might we unveil if we all used words to create and restore?

Ryan SandersComment