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Words That Bring Life
I read something once concerning a person's rather acidic response to an affront caused by a co-worker, and could not help thinking that however wrong the co-worker was, the response was not appropriate either. The Scripture says that "a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger"1. I think in this situation the person's response only added fuel to the fire in the less-than-friendly relationship that already existed with the co-worker. Too often I myself say things that are more hurtful than helpful. Reading what I just did makes me more conscious of that fact. As believers, the Lord wants us to choose carefully what we say to those around us, for "death and life are in the power of the tongue"2.
As I consider that verse, I can see the truth in it. Words of insult, anger, cursing, discouragement, deception, and bitterness are all words that bring death to the hearts of those around us. Words of compliment, joy, blessing, encouragement, truth, and peace are words that bring life to others. What I say and how I say it can lift someone up or send them away wounded. Words that are in effect curses, such as "you'll never be anything" or "you will never change" or "you are an idiot", bring death in a person's life, because it is hard for a person to not start believing that if they are continually told such things. Speaking truth and encouragement to people has the opposite effect. It causes them to grow and live, like a plant in the sun. A plant that never sees daylight, but only gloom and darkness, is not going to grow well, if at all.
I believe speaking the truth plays an important role in our speaking life to people. Truth is important to the Lord, and it should be important to us. Some might say, "Well, the truth can hurt, so how can it be life-giving?" My answer to that is truth brings life when it is spoken to someone out of love. For example, is it more loving and life-giving to quietly tell a person that they have made errors at work, or, in fear of offending the person, not say anything, only to later see them lose their job over such errors? I would say it would be better to risk telling them the truth and help them keep their job. Also, if a person I know is cheating on their spouse, should I not lovingly go to that person and speak the truth of Scripture to them so they might repent? Is not life given if that person turns and is restored to both the Lord and their family?
Now, speaking truth does not always involve "painful truths"; much of the truth we can speak over others is very encouraging. There are many wonderful things said in the Bible that we may speak over our brothers and sisters in the Lord in particular. Truths like the fact we are "chosen of God, holy and beloved"3 or "we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works"4 are just two of many examples of words of life spoken in the Scripture concerning believers. We need to be speaking these things to one another in the Body in order that we may build one another up in God's truth. He spoke these things concerning us to bring us life. The Lord wants to use us to remind our brethren of these things along with the voice of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. When we do not, but rather speak ill of each other, discourage one another, and say unkind things to each other, we invite death to come against the hearers. This is not what God has called us to do. We do not want to aid the Enemy in spreading lies and death to people by our words. He and his minions speak enough death to people on their own. (Do not listen to those lies the Enemy whispers to you, by the way. He comes to kill, steal, and destroy, and one of the most effective ways he does it is through the hateful words he breathes to people's hearts and minds. Know the truth of what God says about you as well as your brethren, and His life in that truth will dispel the lies of darkness.)
What I say and how I say it can lift someone up or send them away wounded.
One group of people that are particularly influenced by the words spoken to them and about them are children and young people. Too often they only hear the negative spoken to them. We as Christians ought to be blessing the children, first and foremost by sharing the truth of God in the gospel with them, and also by encouraging them. Now, I am not saying that they to do not ever need words of correction. I know that to them, any words of discipline can seem to be "negative". Yet there is a difference of presenting truth in the form of correction ("you are being disobedient" or "you are lying") and negative statements that do not aid the child ("you are bad" or "you little liar!"). One tells the child their specific error; the other gives a generality that labels the child. Truth is specific, shows the child their sin, and gives the remedy for it. This loving form of correction brings life to the child, because it guides them in the way of righteousness. Throwing out blanket statements that identify the child with negative attributes and then failing to show them how to make their sin right only causes them to conclude that they are indeed hopelessly bad. They then have death creeping over them by way of the endless chant of "I'm bad" in their heads. Children thrive when life is spoken over them.
I want to speak words that bring life to people each day. I know I certainly want such words spoken to me. Dear Lord, please guide what I say, that Your life and Your truth would flow from my lips to give healing to the hurting, encouragement to the weary, blessing to my family and friends, grace to my co-workers, light to the lost, and unity to the Body of Christ.
1. Proverbs 15:1
2. Proverbs 18:21a
3. Colossians 3:12a
4. Ephesians 2:10a
(All Scripture quoted from the NASB.)