Psalm 52:4 (ESV)
You love all words that devour,
O deceitful tongue.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”. What a lie. It is a lie of gargantuan proportions. Words can kill, start wars, cripple, end marriages, abuse children. There is no end to the damage that can be, and is, afflicted by words. Speaking to wicked people David says that they love words that devour. Here, the words that people utter are compared to a ravenous beast that tears it prey asunder. The very words they speak devour. And what they devour is destroyed. Most often it is other people who become the meal that these words feast upon.
How careful these truths should cause us to be in our conversations and communications with others. Before you hit “send” get a night’s rest and re-read your missive and see if it really is what you want to say. The whole mess is compounded by the fact that we do not see ourselves the way other people do. We think we are being composed and conciliatory while those we are speaking to are wondering why we are raving and being so obnoxious. Realizing that words are powerful destructive forces and also that our own self perceptions may not be what other people’s perceptions of us are, ought to make us very careful regarding the words we use and the manner in which we use them.
The Scriptures are full of such warnings. Read through the Book of Proverbs and see what is said there about the tongue. Out of the seven things that the Lord hates, three of them have to do with the misuse of the tongue.
Proverbs 6:16-19 (ESV)
There are six things that the Lord hates,
seven that are an abomination to him:
 haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
 a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that make haste to run to evil,
 a false witness who breathes out lies,
and one who sows discord among brothers.
And be sure not to omit the most famous biblical text of all regarding this weapon of mass destruction – James 3:2-12. It is not a flattering assessment but it is painfully true and if we are honest we will feel the pain of it.
The world is busy going to hell because of a lie that was believed, uttered in sinless Eden, and responded to with the assurance that to believe what was said by a subtle beast was better than to believe what God had already said. Words are very powerful indeed. They really do devour and if we really believe the Gospel and have God Himself dwelling in us we can begin to demonstrate that glorious truth by reforming the way we talk. If all believers would guard their tongues and speak only what is for the edification of other believers (Ephesians 4:29), the world may not have the horrible opinion of evangelicalism that it has. The saddest thing of all is that quite often the critics of the church are right and they have the quotes from our mouths to prove it.
Let’s do great exploits for God. Let’s talk in a God pleasing manner. The world will be turned upside down by such radical faith.