The Power of Words
“The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom.” - Proverbs 10:31a
If you ask almost any couple what one of the biggest problems in their marriage is, inevitably one of them will point to a problem with communication:
· “We live in different worlds.”
· “We don’t talk enough.”
· “We don’t understand each other.”
The same is true in the world of business. Business analysts, in fact, say that poor communication is the number one problem in business today. And, remember the generation gap? Communication between generations has been a problem since Cain and Abel became teenagers!
Our words are important. Not only do they reveal whether or not we are men and women of wisdom, but they are the primary means by which we can share counsel, affirmation, and correction with others.
So, how do we make sure that what we communicate in words is in keeping with the way of wisdom? In this post and the next two, we’ll look at what the writers in Proverbs tell us about wise words and effective communication. In fact, we find speech and words to be one of the primary themes of the book of Proverbs.
The importance of wise speech
There are a lot of words in our world and many of them empty and meaningless. Think of sit-coms or television commercials, small talk at parties, or political diatribes. On the other hand, God values words: Every word he speaks has great significance. All it took was his word to make the stars, the planets, and all that lives and breathes. Then, as we know, the Bible is God’s written word to us. He cared enough to write down the revelation of himself and his will for the world and the beings he had created. Then, as the crowning communication of God to mankind, Jesus came as word in a human body (John 1:1).
No wonder the wisdom writers spend so much time instructing us on our speech. Words are powerful. Martin Luther believed in their power over evil when he said of Satan in the hymn, A Mighty Fortress is our God, “One little word shall fell him”. After all the trouble Satan has caused us and has brought to our world, isn’t it interesting to realize that just a word from God and he’s history?
Our speech affects every relationship we have. It can persuade. That’s what the politicians work
at doing for many months in advance of an election. And, of course, advertising slogans such as “You deserve a break today” operate on the principle of the powerful influence of word. Words can change the course of history. Anyone beyond middle age can remember President Reagan’s “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” and the joy that was felt around the world when that actually happened. Speech can move us emotionally as Neil Armstrong did when he said, “One small step for man; one giant step for mankind.” And the right words can move us to action as Winston Churchill did with his message to a graduating class, “Never give up, never, never, never give up!”
With that kind of power, those who are wise will guard their speech and consider their words. Note this warning from James, a writer of wisdom in the New Testament:
“Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” – James 3:5-6
That warning alone should motivate us to learn as much as we can about communicating effectively with God-given insight, with strength of character, with confidence and, by God’s grace, effectiveness.
“Words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness.” – Mother Teresa