God’s voice is a creating force. Nine times in Genesis chapter one it states, “Then God said…” and with His words God spoke into existence atoms, planets, water, plants, animals – life! Our existence today is possible because He spoke us into being and it is with words that we receive our salvation from Him, through a verbal confession of our belief that Jesus is Lord. (Rom. 10:9-10) As the Lord’s image bearers, we should take care with our words bringing hope to the hopeless and love to the unloved.
“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tidings of good things, who proclaims salvation,
who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” – Isaiah 52:7
Scripture is not silent when it comes to our words. From bridling our tongues, (James 1:26) and speaking words of healing, (Pro. 12:18) to refraining from gossip (Pro. 26:20) the Bible carries wisdom we should apply diligently to our lives with how and when we should speak. According to Proverbs 18:21 “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” That’s a lot of responsibility for such a small organ and sometimes it’s about as easy to control as a whirlwind but it’s imperative we try.
Today, more than ever, we see the long-lasting and far-reaching effects of our words. We can post comments online for the world to see, instantaneously garnering a response often overlooking their permanence or effect on those they are directed to or about. This is where we should take a lesson from Thumper, a Disney rabbit, who wisely said, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.” Sounds a lot like Ephesians 4:29 to me. In the age of social media, anonymity, and free speech this is sound advice.
Sadly, sometimes we don’t consider the long-term effect we will have on someone else’s life with what we say. Or worse sometimes in the heat of the moment, we just don’t care – we want our voice to be heard. Every so often the news reveals a story about someone who ended their own life tragically because they could no longer endure the harsh and unrelenting words from people around them. The Internet is full of videos of kids recounting their experiences with bullies whose verbal venom often reaches violence. This is a real problem.
As individuals there is something we can do for an immediate change in the world around us. We must follow the example Christ set before us to put others first in word and deed. (Rom .15:1-6) We should be “swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath,” (James 1:19) we are to “love our enemies,” (Matt 5:44, Rom. 12:20) and “overcome evil with good.” (Rom. 12:21) Proverbs 12:6-7 is clear, “The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood, but the mouth of the upright will deliver them.” (NASB) May the Lord set a guard over our mouths (Ps. 141:3) that we would not use our words (or typing fingers) to tear down other people but to build them up. Our neighbours are not our enemies, and so shouldn’t be treated as though they are because we “…do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6:12)