“I wish I had said that,” might be our reaction, or it might be our thinking that we’re glad we said nothing at all! The words we use–even in private thoughts–can be our undoing, or they can bring both others and ourselves great joy.
James teaches us about our choice of words: “But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:8-10).
The words we choose to speak are just that–our choice. In Proverbs 12:18, we find this comment: “There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, But the tongue of the wise promotes health.” Proverbs elaborates on the first part of verse 18 with this statement: “An ungodly man digs up evil, And it is on his lips like burning fire. A perverse man sows strife, And a whisperer separates the best of friends” (Proverbs 16:27-28). Then, complementing the last part of verse 18, Proverbs 15:23 states: “A man has joy by the answer of his mouth, And a word spoken in due season, how good it is!”
Consider, also, these two quotes from the Book of Proverbs: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold In settings of silver” (Proverbs 25:11); and, “A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).
King David came to deeply understand that God knew everything about him. He makes this profound acknowledgement before God: “For there is not a word on my tongue, But behold, O LORD, you know it altogether” (Psalm 139:4). That is true for all of us, but it is especially important for those of us who now live our lives as Christians!
James leaves us this further caution–a question we should always have in mind before we speak: “Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening” (James 3:11)?
Words and how we use them hold great importance. Words matter to God and they matter to our families, friends and even strangers, and they certainly better matter to each one of us–words are, after all, our choice!