What Are [your] Words For?

In 1982, the band “Missing Persons” asked the question, “What are words for, when no one listens anymore?”  Today, I wonder if they still feel the same. It seems that everyone is listening (or reading) your words to see if they offend.  In recent days, we have seen a seminary president be rather abruptly retired for some (pretty awful) advice that he gave years ago.  We have also seen a long-awaited return of a 90’s sitcom classic derailed because of the star’s racist twitter rant. And social media is all abuzz wanting a certain show cancelled because of (pretty awful) things said by their (so-called) personalities.  Are we seeing a common theme here? It seems that people have forgotten Mom’s advice that, “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything.”


We cannot control what other people do with their words, but each of us certainly has the power to control what we do with ours.  So what are you using your words for? The Bible speaks about the words that we say, but certainly the same principles translate to the words that we type or share.  I say this, recognizing the swiftness with which I on many occasions have inserted my foot in my mouth. Since sometimes the simplest teachings are best, we will use an acrostic that teachers use with young students.  The idea is before you speak (or type) THINK:


Is it TRUE?:  As believers, we are called to proclaim to people the ultimate, life-giving truth (Matt. 28:19-20). If what we say (or post) is not true, how will they believe what we say about Christ.  It always upsets me when people post things that are false. When believers do it, it grieves the Holy Spirit. Recently, I don’t even hesitate to tell someone when what they post or say is false.  It’s easier than ever to check your facts. Do it!


Is it HELPFUL?:  Maybe calling the coworker who tried to cut me off at the elevator “crazy” is not the most helpful response.  Does what you say really need to be said? Who will be helped by it. If your purpose is to anger people, your motivation is wrong.  


Is it INSPIRING?:  Does what you say build others up (Eph. 4:29)?  Or does it tear them down. Hawk Nelson, in their song “Words”, sings, “Words can build us up, words can bring us down, start a fire in our hearts or put it out.”  This is so true. What you you using your words for. Hint: If it’s simply to advance your political views, it is probably not inspiring, and may have the opposite effect on those who see things differently.


Is it NECESSARY?:  “I tell you that on the day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak.” (Matthew 12:36, CSB).  Using the standard of “necessary” would probably eliminate most of what we say. Who will benefit from the knowledge that you are about to share?  Remember that always having something to say tends to just dilute the important things that you have to say.


Is it KIND?:  If it is true, helpful, inspiring, and necessary, are you saying it in a way that makes people receptive to it.  If you are using insulting words to make your point, then that says more about you than the person that you are insulting.  As grandmothers everywhere say, “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” We have a great example of this in John 4, where Jesus talks to the woman at the well.  He is the Lord of all creation, and she was a woman with a REALLY checkered past in an apostate land. If anyone, anywhere, at any time had a right to be insulting to anyone, it was the Lord that day at the well.  Yet, notice that He speaks kindly to her, even while confronting her in her sin.


If we learn to see others as people created in the image of God, then we can treat them accordingly.  We can use our words to proclaim the truth of the gospel to a people that are languishing in front of our eyes.  The aforementioned song “Words” by Hawk Nelson also contains a prayer that is appropriate for us as well. “Let my words be life, let my words be truth, I don’t wanna say a word unless it points the world back to You.”  I say this, again, while acknowledging my own (sinful) propensity to use my words as a weapon instead of a tool. Let’s work on this together!

One Response to “What Are [your] Words For?”

  1. Sharon says:

    Very insightful (is that a word?). It is so sad that so many people today take the low road and try to tear someone down with their words. I blame the media also because for them someone’s hateful words make a “big news” day.

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