Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 47; 147:12-20, Zechariah 4:1-14, Ephesians 4:17-32, Matthew 9:1-8
Speech has the power to build up or to tear down. We might claim words are only words, but they impact the world around us and inside us in real ways. The words our parents speak to us in childhood can enhance or undermine confidence throughout our lives. Gossip can destroy reputations. Journalists can topple empires and poets can terrify dictators. As people following Christ, we are called to use our words constructively.
As Paul wrote to the Ephesians: “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.”
Gossip may be the low-hanging fruit of evil talk, but it is a bumper crop. Not every truth needs to be spoken to every person, especially uninvolved parties. On the occasions we find it necessary to share a harsh truth, our words can be direct without being vindictive. A message that shames or belittles for our momentary satisfaction is not necessary to offer correction or guidance. As rhetoric grows more divisive in this age of anonymous internet comments and confrontational “reality” television, we are encouraged to have an opinion about everything. In matters where we lack knowledge or have no stake, it’s perfectly acceptable to have no opinion at all and stick with it. When we “tell it like it is,” consequences be damned, we reveal more ignorance than wisdom. Bernard Meltzer advises us to ask ourselves if what we are about to say is true, necessary, or kind; if it’s none of these, perhaps we should practice silence.
Yes we must speak up to confront injustice. To share the gospel. To teach each other. But always – always – we are speaking to other children of God.
Words matter because they are manifestation of thoughts, and therefore ignite action. Let silence be a dam between your thoughts and your lips. Release their power in a controlled fashion so as not to leave chaos in your wake. What you hold back represents potential; what you spill can not be reclaimed.
Comfort: Your words have the ability to give grace to those who hear.
Challenge: This week, be especially mindful of when you are silent and when you speak.
Prayer: Loving God, be present in my thoughts, on my lips, and in my heart. Amen.
Discussion: How many of your unnecessary, unhelpful, or unkind words could be replaced with better words or silence?
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