- Proverbs 23:16 (NKJV) Yes, my inmost being will rejoice when your lips speak right things.
I’ve learned the hard way that what you say and how you say it can have a huge impact on people’s lives. It is a common experience for me to have someone come up and share something I said, sometimes many years ago, that had an impact on their lives. I can only imagine the many people, whom I have impacted negatively, that have not shared with me the damage my words have done in their lives. I can only pray that the One on whose behalf I tried to speak will compensate and make good come out of my often very human, but never mean-spirited, efforts. But I ramble…
The point is, words are powerful; and in this bumper-sticker, sound-bite, social media era it is possible to spew little word bombs all over the place that sound good on the surface but are not true and can even lead people astray.
Let me give you an example. Sometime ago I ran across this statement: “Every discouraging statement is a wicked statement.”
First of all, an all-encompassing statement (“Every discouraging statement…) makes me nervous; I’ve lived long enough to learn that there are usually two-sides to every story and exceptions to almost every rule.
The second red flag was the moral element of the statement—“Every discouraging statement is a wicked statement.” Any time you get God involved in something you raise the stakes to incredible levels.
So I’ve been meditating on this broad and sweeping “word bomb” for awhile—it made me nervous. After all, isn’t it a good thing to discourage people from doing evil or harmful things?
Well, the place to go when you need instructions is the Bible (Proverbs 1:2-4). In my NKJV version of the Bible the word discourage and discouraged is used ten times (Numbers 21:4, 32:7, 9; Deuteronomy 1:21, 28; Ezra 4:4; Isaiah 42:4; Colossians 3:21; Hebrews 12:3, 5). I have examined each of them and not one of them is used in a positive sense: in other words it was not a good thing to make discouraging statements.
In the original language there were different words translated as discouraged but the meaning was the basically the same: to be disheartened, dispirited, and broken in spirit.
Turns out this board sweeping statement may be right. It appears that every discouraging statement is indeed a wicked statement.
Sure we are to admonish people to turn from their wicked ways and to the paths of life (Colossians 3:16).
Sure we are to encourage people to stop doing things that are harmful and damaging (Galatians 6:1).
Sure we are to—indeed must – exhort people to repent and accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior (2 Peter 3:9).
But we must not do these things in a way that discourages them. We must do them in such a way that they are: heartened, inspired, and encouraged in spirit.
Perhaps the biggest take away from all this is to remind us of the power of words. Let’s not be so free with them; and when we speak (Oh God help us!) let’s make sure they are words of life, not death; and that they make the Father’s heart rejoice.