Words of Worth

How’s That Helpful?

August 15, 2010

In response to some of your comments after speaking in church on Sunday (8/15), we thought we would post some entries from a devotional book we cowrote in the Fall of 2009.  This first one highlights a few more examples from Sheryl’s perspective on words she has heard that were not altogether “helpful” at the time.

“Your father’s surgeon is only average in her surgical skills,” said my highly knowledgeable, and extremely accomplished medical friend to me as my father was under that average surgeon’s knife.  My thoughts about her words: How’s that helpful?

“Aunt Sheryl, how’s China? Are Grandmom and PopPop okay?  Nobody’s been able to reach them in days,” texted my niece in PA while I was teaching in Hong Kong. My thoughts about her words:  How’s that helpful?

“You can always get another dog, right?” suggested my neighbor when I told her that I had to put Skye, my adopted dog, to sleep.  My thoughts about her words: How’s that helpful?

Many times our words, or the words of another, can strip us of much joy and hope. However, while what others say can be painful, God seems to be more concerned about the power of the words we speak rather than about the ones we hear.  David’s prayer in Psalm 141:3 was, “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.” Interestingly, the sentinel is placed at our mouths, not at our ears or hearts, because greater can be the slaughter of joy by what we say to another, than by what another has to say to us.

One of my favorite Bee Gee songs is entitled, “Smile” and the chorus to the song is:  “It’s only words, but words are all I have to take your heart away.”    Many years ago, when I first heard the song, I remember thinking how smooth this guy was, that he could woo his lover’s heart simply with his words.  He didn’t have to drive a nice car, wear nice threads, make a lot of money—all he had to do was use the power of his words to win the heart of the one he loved.  But the opposite could also be said.  The chorus could be written:  “It’s only words, but words are all I have to cause your heart dismay.”  Ample opportunity exists for us to utter sayings that are helpful or hurtful since the English language has over 500, 000 words.  Indeed, great is the potential to use that much language to woo or wound another.  Proverbs 10:19:  “when words are many, sin is not absent.”

God’s word places a premium on words that are spoken appropriately.  The word, “words” is mentioned over 500 times, and the word “tongue” over 100 times in Scripture.  He suggests that we can increase other’s joy (Prov. 15:23 A man finds joy giving an apt reply), increase their ability to learn (Prov.16:21 Pleasant words promote learning), and even bring healing (“Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.”  So, too, our words can steal joy, cause a heart to droop from heaviness, and even break a bone (Job asked his friends, “How long will you torture me and crush me with your words?” Job 19:12).

“It’s only words, but words are all I have to take your heart away. It’s only words but words are all I have to heal your heart today.”  Now that’s helpful…

“Heaviness in the heart of man makes it stoop: but a good word makes it glad.”  Prov. 12: 25

Looking for more words?  Read Ephesians 4:29-32.   Instead of unwholesome words, make a list of grace giving words you can offer someone this week.  Keep in mind that a gentle word at the proper time is proven to be very helpful.

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