Category Archives: Wednesday Wisdom

Words Have Consequences

Funny things words are: while they are intangible, yet they can break the strongest of men, and while they are merely sounds formed by air, lips and tongue, yet they have the ability to straighten the back of the lowliest of souls. The Proverb says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue,” (18:21a, ESV). No one is impervious to the destruction of words. It is said that Mark Twain made the comment that “A lie travels around the globe while truth is putting on his shoes.” Jonathan Swift wrote, “Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it.” Every person has been lied about, and every one of us have been broken with words.

How often we have seen a major newspaper make front page headlines on a person or matter, only to have to retract it on page Z14. But that is not unlike the rest of us. We are too often not very careful with our words; gossip, slander, and angry words come flying out of our mouths or off of our fingers in text or social media. Many times we find we were wrong, and when we have to admit it, we are not quite as vocal or boisterous as before. We’d rather bury our apologies.

Yet, words have power. They carry tremendous power. Some words sting. Some cripple. Some kill. Yet others are a salve, a balm that when applied liberally can bring healing and life. The truth, when spoken in love (Ephesians 4:15), can do both. It can cut, and cut deep, but also prove to be the healing that one needs.

There is a second part to that verse though: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit,” (18:21, ESV). The question with this statement is about what the antecedent to “it” is. There are various arguments as to whether it is “power” or “tongue,” but I argue it is “tongue.” The reason being that this is not the only verse about words in this chapter. It is filled with proverbs about speaking.

“The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook,” (18:4, ESV).

“A fool’s lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating,” (18:6, ESV).

“A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul,” (18:7, ESV).

“The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body,” (18:8, ESV).

And there are more, but notice verses 7 & 8 especially. The lips are a snare to the soul and gossip goes down into the inner parts of the body. Those sound an awful lot like, eating the fruit of what comes from the tongue. One cannot take back what he/she has said. Their souls, innermost being, or stomachs will have to live with every word that comes out. Many things said can be reversed with a simple apology, but many things cannot. I still remember being 14 and telling my sister I hated her. As soon as it came out, I tried to take it back, saying that I hated “this, our arguing.” A few years ago, I asked if she remembered the argument when I said that. She didn’t. But it went into the depths of my being. I do not believe I will be able to forget such words. You may have a similar story.

I am a work in progress. By God’s grace I am growing in my speech, though I am not where I wish I was. So I encourage you to remember these words with me and let them sink deep into your soul: “Know this, my beloved brothers: be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger,” (James 1:19, ESV)

Balanced Judgment

A particular verse has been weighing (pun intended) upon my heart lately, and I can see its application everywhere.  It comes from Proverbs 11:1, “A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is his delight,” (ESV).  Imagine going into the grocery store for some delicious Berres Bros. Highlander Grogg Coffee (not a sponsor; they just have the best Highlander Grogg I’ve ever drunk).  You wait, as the line for this rich, delicious drink is long.  The person ahead of you is finally taking the scoop and puts the beans into his bag, weighs the bag and it comes to a certain amount per pound.  You notice the weight and the price.  That seems fair enough, but you don’t as much money to spend.  After doing the math, you come to the amount of coffee you can afford, and grab the scoop, weigh yours until you have the weight you want, and print the price tag.  You look and realize that the price you were expecting is not the price you received.  In fact, you’re paying the same amount as the guy before you, but you got less coffee.  (This is fictitious–hypothetical; Berres Bros. would not do this to you).  Yours is more per pound than the guy in front of you.  How do you feel?  Angry?  Outraged?  Confused?  Cheated?  Like an injustice had been done?

That’s what this verse is getting at.  Back in the day when goods and coinage was weighed, merchants would easily use false balances and false weights to make more money.  They may use one set of weights that were lighter to give a person their goods.  When the silver or gold pieces were then put on the balance, they’d use a heavier set of weights to weigh the money so that more was paid than was given.  That’s an unjust balance, and that is an abomination to the Lord.

Stop and think about the balances in our lives.  We have an internal balance by which we judge situations and people.  How good are we at keeping a just balance?  Are we judging each person or situation fairly or do we allow bad prejudices (race, ethnicity, weight, clothes, etc.) to weigh the balance down or “good”* prejudices (beauty/handsomeness, strength, intelligence, financial status) to lighten the balance?  Let us be careful with our hearts, our words, and our actions.  May we use a just balance as best we can.  We won’t be perfect, but we can be progressing.

*or course, by “good” I am not saying these are right, but often considered good or favorable traits in our culture.  By allowing these traits to outweigh justice is still an abomination.