Like a club or a sword or a sharp arrowProverbs 25:18 (NIV)
is one who gives false testimony against a neighbor.
You have likely heard the schoolyard or playground phrase “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me!” But is this true? I think not! Sticks or stones may indeed bruise our body, or in a severe case, break our bones of course but words can wound as well. How many people took a physical beating at one point and are now totally recovered, yet those same people carry deep scars from vicious or poisonous words in their past.
A single fist may bruise an eye, but a single word can start a war if spoken at the right (wrong?) time.
If sticks and stones can break our bones, then words are atom bombs!
The writer of the proverb above likens false testimony to that of real life weapons. He clearly compares clubs, swords and arrows to that of spreading falsities about one’s neighbour. When we hear the word “testimony” we may automatically think of a courtroom. While this is certainly the place to tell the truth, we can give false testimony about our neighbours in any setting. It is every bit as important to be truthful in the court of opinion and on social media as it is in a court of law.
Jesus tells us, in Matthew 12:
But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.Matthew 12:36 (NIV)
If there was ever a Scripture to make us shudder, then this would be it! We speak often, and how much of it is “empty words”?
The Bible has a huge amount to say about our words, and Proverbs in particular talks of the important of how we speak. James, in the New Testament, is often thought of as the Proverbs of the NT, and he too warns of the power of words. It is hard for me to state how critical this subject is. Jesus was so careful about what He did and did not say, remaining silent at crucial moments.
Although the thought terrifies me, I toy with the idea of recording myself for an entire day and listening back to the conversations I have had. What would that reveal? Would I hear myself building others up and encouraging them? Or would my words be careless, inflicting wounds without thought?
Would you wish to be recorded for a day, and have to listen to it back? Let each of us take an inventory of, not just our words, but our tone as well. Often we communicate more in the way we say things than in what we specifically say. Instead of an entire day, why not just take stock for an hour. Make notes or record yourself, then pray over the results.
Are there words in your past that you deeply regret? Such words cannot be changed, but you can learn these lessons and avoid the dangers in future.
Like the psalmist, ask the Lord to set a guard over your lips.
Set a guard over my mouth, Lord;Psalm 141:3 (NIV)
keep watch over the door of my lips.
Remember, words are atomic bombs that can devastate a life. They are also a wellspring of life that can create and build up.
Watch your words today, and every day! Lord, do help us to speak out only good things to the people in our lives. Guard our mouths so that we utter nothing in anger or haste that will harm and wound. Holy Spirit, watch over our words this day and let them point people to You – in Jesus’ Name! Amen