Rhetoric, ramblings and reckless words

Published 10:05 pm Friday, November 9, 2012

By Rev. Chris Surber

People are terribly careless with their words. This is something that I have found to be true generally. I wonder if your experience of words is the same.

A child is quick to pierce the heart of a loving parent with his angry words, because though he possesses words he lacks the discernment in how to use them that experience brings. A husband is frustrated after a long day at work and within the first few minutes of his arrival at home reacts with hurtful words to the woman he loves and later deeply regrets the carelessness of his choice of words.

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Examples of the carelessness that we so often employ with our words are plentiful. We have all been reckless with our words and wished we could take them back.

That old childhood adage “sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me” is rubbish. It’s not true. Rambling reckless words are like sharp darts. When we throw them around carelessly, we should not be surprised when some of them stick.

Words should be treasured. They are a tool of immense strength and a weapon of supreme power. With words, God spoke the world into existence. With words, Martin Luther King Jr. pressed society forward. With words, former President Ronald Reagan pleaded with communists of the 1980s to tear down the Berlin wall.

Words transform society, inform minds, and transform hearts.

Mark Twain wrote: “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.”

While it is true for all people that choosing words carefully is a wise practice, if you are a follower of the way of Jesus, it is of particular importance.

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29 ESV)

Follower of Jesus, if those who do not follow Jesus only have the testimony of your words, how likely are they to say that your words give grace and build up? If their impression of Jesus were shaped by the speech of His followers alone, would they have a good impression? I doubt it.

Words matter and they cannot be taken back. The world is watching as Christians in public forums and private conversation too often tear down sinners with smug rhetoric, bash disliked politicians with mind-numbing ramblings, and dishonor the faith we profess with reckless words.

“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” (Proverbs 12:18 ESV)