by Richard Lim
Solomon once said that, “a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a network of silver” (Prov. 25:11). How true is this proverb that describes the beauty of a word spoken appropriately and at the right time. Think about this, out of all the creatures that God has created, only humans are created in God’s image and have the ability to reason and communicate with words. No other creatures have this kind of ability that is able to reason and communicate with words. As a matter of fact, God has chosen to reveal the great plan of salvation to us through inspired words (2 Tim. 3:16). Words are used to convey a message or a thought. As such, it is important for us to select the right words to use for different occasions.
For example, at a funeral. Often times we run out of words to comfort the bereaved family. So much so that we hear people say, “I just don’t know what to say.” Perhaps the best option is to just remain quiet as your very presence would have already been an encouragement to them. A good example is Job’s friends recorded in Job 2:11-13. They made an appointment together to come to sympathize with him and comfort him but did not speak a word to him seeing him in great pain. Brethren, we need to be careful of “careless words” because we will be judged by it. Matt. 12:36-37 “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
I am reminded of Eph. 4:29 where it says,
“Let no corrupt speech proceed out of your mouth, but such as is good for edifying as the need may be, that it may give grace to them that hear.” (ASV)
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (ESV)
The above two versions tell us that the choice of our words must be firstly, good not corrupted, secondly for edification and building up, and thirdly, must fit the occasion. With these principles in mind, it will then impart grace to the hearers. Obviously there are times where words spoken do not fit the occasion. Therefore, it does more harm than good. We need to take heed that the words of our mouth and the meditation of our hearts are acceptable in God’s sight (Ps 19:14).
For instance, what would you say to a brother who has repented? I believe the choice of words used is important so that it does not cause more hurt but one that imparts grace. Let us look at the story of the prodigal son. When the son repented and returned home, said this to his father in Luke 15 verse 21 “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight and am no longer worthy to be called your son.” Did the father start to give him a lecture and say, “Son, I told you so. You should have listened to me. See, you have spent all your monies and you have made a terrible mistake! You owe your family an apology.” Rather, the Bible says that his father was overjoyed that his younger son was back safe and sound, just said to his servants, “Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it and let us eat and be merry.” The father showed great love towards him and minimized the impact and healed the hurt with the right choice of words. He greatly rejoiced over his son’s homecoming.
Another occasion is recorded in John 8 in the case of the woman who was caught in adultery. What did Jesus say after all the accusers have gone away? He just said, “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.” Kind words were spoken by our Lord.
But to those brethren who are not willing to repent and turn of their ways, words of rebuke and reproof are used. If we look at the first letter that was written by Paul to the Corinthians, his words was rather harsh and one of great rebuke. This was because they were so proud of their sins and to the extent that one of their sins was not even named among the Gentiles. Again, Paul was also hard on Peter in Galatians 2:11-14 because he was still in sin showing hypocrisy. Yet, to those brethren who had repented, Paul showed love and encouragement as we can read in his second epistle to the Christians at Corinth (2 Cor 2:7-8). We also remembered the woes pronounced by Jesus towards the Pharisees in Matthew 23.
Brethren, let’s all learn to use words fit for the occasion that will result in imparting grace to the hearers. Let us remember Proverbs 15:23 “A man has joy by the answer of his mouth, and a word spoken in due season, how good it is!”
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