Words Matter: What You Don’t Say

“A prudent man keeps his knowledge to himself, but the heart of fools blurts out folly.” (Proverbs 12:23)

I’ll admit; I’ve done it. Maybe you have, too. Propelled by insecurity – afraid the smart people around me wouldn’t know I was smart, too – I’ve brought up topics in conversation just so I could show off how much I knew about them.

words_350I’ve even spewed every last fact in my head about things I didn’t really know that much about, sometimes making up details and delivering them with fake confidence. I was foolish.

Sometimes fools, looking to feel significant or just unable to stop the words from spilling out, even reveal information that could expose them or others to genuine danger. (Think passwords, troop movements, a good friend’s secrets.)

A wise person asks: “Who am I helping besides myself by what I’m about to say?” If the answer is, “Nobody,” the wise person leaves that bit of knowledge left unsaid. If I only speak to serve myself, I’ll just make it obvious more quickly what a fool I really am.

Do: Be honest with yourself: How often do you blurt knowledge just to build yourself up in the eyes of others? What do you think when you realize other people are doing that with you?

Pray: Ask God to help you to be prudent and not share knowledge foolishly.

Do: Listen this week for foolish talkers blurting out folly and try to catch some wise friends not sharing all they know.

Words Matter: God Hates Lying

“The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful.” (Proverbs 12:22)

How often do you think about God’s emotions? We talk most often about how much God loves us—and we should. God’s love is a huge deal. And we talk some about God’s anger, “pouring out his wrath” on the wicked in the past and future.

words_350But we don’t talk as much about what God likes. Or what he hates. God is emotional. He responds to our actions emotionally, as well as justly and righteously. Just because we can’t see him smile or grimace doesn’t mean he doesn’t have those kinds of reactions.

God hates lying. Yes, he loves us, and he forgives us in Christ. He likes us. But he hates lies (including the “small ones”). And he enjoys it in a big way when we tell the truth, when we’re honest, when we refuse to deceive for our own benefit.

Does understanding God’s emotional responses to truth and lies make it easier to choose to tell the truth?

Think: How motivated are you by pleasing God with your choices, by doing things you know He enjoys?

Pray: Ask God to help you to hate lying and enjoy the truth in the same way that he does.

Do: Listen for lies this week and think about God’s emotional reaction to them.

Words Matter: Hurt or Heal

“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” (Proverbs 12:18)

I might have been ten years old. I was with my friend in his parents’ room, and I saw a handgun on his dad’s nightstand that looked exactly like a plastic toy one I had. But when I went to pick it up, the weight of it surprised me and I dropped it. My friend’s dad wasn’t happy.

words_350At the time I thought, “Cool. A real gun.” Now as a dad, the thought of my son picking up a handgun without understanding its power terrifies me. It takes training and wisdom to handle powerful weapons safely.

Today’s proverb is making the point that words are powerful weapons, as well. When we’re reckless—treating words like toys, like they don’t matter—we can cause serious damage before we even realize it.

And if we’re not careful, we’ll also miss the chance to use powerful words to help, to heal those who are hurting. Words are powerful medicine, squandered when we don’t know how to administer them with kindness, grace, and patience.

Think: How often have you felt wounded by another person’s words? Have you ever been surprised to learn that your careless words caused real damage?

Pray: Ask God to help you not to be reckless with your words but to use them wisely to help and heal others.

Do: Make a quick list of three of your friends who are especially good at using words in powerful and helpful ways.

Words Matter: The Payoff

“From the fruit of his lips a man is filled with good things as surely as the work of his hands rewards him.” (Proverbs 12:14)

When your working life consists of part-time jobs, it’s all about the hours. My friend T. works three jobs; he wants all the hours he can get his hands on. He’s got car insurance, and he’s saving for a truck. The math is easy: More hours = more dollars.

words_350Today’s proverb builds a bridge between work and words. Working hours brings cash rewards. Working at speaking good words brings a payoff, too, though it’s not always as obvious and sometimes it’s even harder than pulling another shift.

Kind words. Wise words. Timely words. Right words. Prayerful words. Worthless words left unsaid. They all contribute to better relationships, problem solving, contentment, leadership and – surprise! – communication. Good words payoff in a richer life.

Think: How have the words you’ve spoken this week hurt or benefited your life? How could choosing wiser or more encouraging words in the week ahead payoff in a real improvement in a key relationship?

Pray: Ask God to help the words you say to be beneficial to him, to others who hear you, and to yourself, as well.

Do: Listen this week for words from others that either cost them something good or provide something good for them or someone else.

Words Matter: Trapped

“An evil man is trapped by his sinful talk, but a righteous man escapes trouble.” (Proverbs 12:13)

None of us like to feel like we’re missing out. That’s one of the reasons sin continues to tempt us. Why should we take that thing off our list of options right now just because it’s “wrong”? What if that thing – a lie, a cruel word, a little immorality, striking back in anger – what if that’s exactly what would make us feel so much better? Why box ourselves in?

words_350But the temptation is a lie. Sin always turns out to be its own dead end. We think of sin as tearing down roadblocks when really we’re setting them up, cutting ourselves off from escape, limiting our freedom.

Today’s proverb says we do it with our words. With a lie, with gossip, with a hurtful remark, we limit the people we can turn to for help. We eliminate options that more positive, helpful words would have opened up. Then – when things get serious – we’re trapped.

Think: Have you ever felt trapped by your own sinful words? What’s the best way to get out of a trap like that?

Pray: Ask God to help you to find greater freedom by refusing to sin with your words.

Do: Watch this week to see how people box themselves into unpleasant situations with sinful words.

Words Matter: Check Your Sources

“The plans of the righteous are just, but the advice of the wicked is deceitful.” (Proverbs 12:5)

I read recently that we each speak around 25,000 words a day – and we hear many times more than that. It’s no wonder we treat words like they’re meaningless. It’s easy to believe the old cliches: “Words are cheap.” “You’ve got to walk the talk.” “Sticks and stones . . .”

words_350But God’s Word – and specifically the seven verses from Proverbs 12 we’ll look at this week – says that words are powerful. For one, they reveal what’s really going on in our hearts and minds. How we use them shows who we are.

Today’s verse tells us not to go looking for good advice from wicked people – people who do wicked things. Their advice lies, either because they’re really lying to us or because they don’t know the truth themselves. If you want true advice, go to people known for telling the truth and doing good.

More tomorrow.

Think: Whose advice are you most likely to listen to? How careful are you about what voices you are willing to trust?

Pray: Ask God to help you to make wise choices about who you trust to give you good advice.

Do: Listen this week for words of advice offered from friends or media or other sources and think about who it is that is giving the advice and how you can know if that person is trustworthy.

Titus Tell ‘Em: Don’t Be That Guy

“Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.” (Titus 3:10-11)

You know that guy? The one who seems to enjoy finding the cracks in every group, the stress points, the small disagreements, the old wounds – and then bringing them up over and over again until he breaks the group or the friendship or the church in half?

crete_350Yeah, that guy (or girl). Paul wanted Titus to give that guy in the Cretan churches two chances and then let him go. That guy is serious trouble for churches and groups of friends. If nobody’s fighting, he’s kind of bored. If everyone is just getting along, he’s not having a good time. He lives for the drama of collapsing relationships.

Paul calls him warped, sinful, and self-condemned. In other words, he’s not good to have around. The person who wants to break up your family shouldn’t be allowed to stay in the house for very long.

Think: How many people do you know who seem to enjoy breaking up groups or friends? Have you ever noticed that tendency in yourself?

Pray: Ask God to help you not to be a divider but to find joy and purpose in keeping groups of Christians together and being a peacemaker.

Do: Notice who in your world seems more driven by drama than peacemaking.