WORDS - Recommendations for Choosing the Right Ones

Glenn Addington By Glenn Addington, 6th Jun 2017 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/wgp4ti1_/
Posted in Wikinut>Family>Relationships

Thoughts on our usage of words, and recommendations for their best usage

Concerning words...

Words. Without them, communication would be difficult. We use words to express our ideas. We fill them with emotions in order to convince others of our sincerity or the strength of our convictions. Without words, either spoken or written, we probably wouldn’t be here.Those who believe in God wouldn’t have come to know that there is a God, who has made all that is around us. We wouldn’t know that He has laws which we have broken, and that we deserve His wrath. And we also wouldn’t know of His love for us, having been demonstrated in the giving of His Son, Jesus, as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Throughout history, we can find numerous quotes from famous people, which bring to our minds what was significant to them or what was going on at that time. “Give me liberty, or give me death!” said Patrick Henry, expressing his longing for freedom for himself and all under British colonial rule. “Remember the Alamo!” is familiar to most of us. John F. Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”
The writer of Proverbs speaks of words and their use in many different ways. He speaks of the gossip, the tale bearer, the false witness or liar, and others whose use of words is anything but positive. In Proverbs 18:21, he reminds us that ‘death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.’ On the positive side, Proverbs 25:11 says, “ Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances.”

But words can get us into a lot of trouble!! I have a refrigerator magnet which states, “I am the Master of my unspoken words, and the slave of those I never should have said.” How true! All of us at one time or another has made a statement that we’ve instantly regretted, but the deed had already been done. The story is told of a town gossip who was caught red-faced and guilty as could be. Being truly sorrowful, she asked the preacher what she could do to undo the damage done. “Take a feather pillow with you to the top of this mountain”, he said, pointing to a nearby peak. “When you get to the top, cut open the pillow and cast all the feathers out upon the wind. Then go, and gather them up again.” “It can’t be done!” she exclaimed. “Neither can all the words you’ve uttered, with the damage they’ve done!”
In the Wisdom literature of the Old Testament, Psalms and Proverbs, two statements are made. The Psalmist says, “Place a guard over my mouth.”, and the writer of Proverbs says “the one who guards his mouth preserves his life.”
Jesus issued a stern warning regarding the use of careless words. Consider
Matthew 12:36-7. "But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the Day of Judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."

So, what is the solution? Is there a short, quick verse that might serve as a guide for the words we would use?

Paul's recommendation

The apostle Paul, in the New Testament book of Ephesians, says “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification, according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” Let’s break this down into smaller pieces, and consider each phrase.

"No unwholesome word...

Paul begins on a negative note. ‘Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth.’ Unwholesome is defined by Webster’s dictionary as, “detrimental to physical, mental or moral well-being.” The various translations refer to foul language. I have never known anyone who convinced an unbeliever of the validity of his faith or of Christianity by the use of profanity. I’m grieved by those who make a claim to Christian faith, yet are proficient at swearing. Those who claim to be Christians, yet are quick to tell a dirty joke, are only fooling themselves, and bring shame on the name of Christ and His church.
But the word used here for unwholesome is elsewhere translated, “bad’, implying worthless. This is the case in Matthew 7:17-19. Jesus tells us that ‘a bad, or worthless tree, cannot bear good fruit, and a good tree cannot bear bad, or worthless fruit.’ Have you ever bit into a rotten apple? Or any other kind of bad fruit? This helps us understand the idea of worthless, and in this context, how many of our words would be viewed by God as worthless – of no benefit to anyone? Consider Galatians 5 – where we find the list of the works of the flesh’- and think of how many of them can or do involve words. Paul mentions enmity, strife, fits of anger, dissensions and divisions. Surely there are many worthless, damaging words being produced by these kinds of thing. They are certainly not beneficial for those who hear them. If we thought through and evaluated every word before it left our mouths, based on this idea of what is worthwhile or worthless, we might be saying far less than what we are saying now.

The first of three positives: building others up, or encouraging them

"Only such a word as is good for edification." This means, ‘for building up the other person.’ ‘Are you an encourager? If those closest to you were asked to evaluate your attitudes and speech, would they say, ‘Yes, he/she is an encourager ‘? If you approach several people you know who are involved in a conversation, and they see you coming, are they pleased to invite you to join the conversation? Or do they quickly bring the conversation to a close, and hurry away so that they don’t have to listen to your negative comments or criticism?
A young man, who was a counselor, began working at an organization where handicapped people worked. They refurbished clothes, toys, furniture, and other things. One young woman who worked there seldom spoke, and when she spoke to anyone, she could never look the other person in the eye. The counselor began to interview the woman, asking about her home life. She lived alone with her father. “Does he talk to you very much?”, the counselor asked. “No, not really”, she said." “ What does he say when he does talk to you?”asked the counselor. “ Shut up, I’m trying to watch TV. Don’t bother me, I’m trying to read the paper. Hey, dummy, get out from in front of the TV.” Her father never spoke a kind or positive word to her, ever. She had been beaten down for so long, day after day, that she had no self-esteem, and couldn’t look anyone in the face when she was talking to them.
Another true story, on the positive side. When my son wanted to play soccer, we signed him up with the city league. He was assigned to a team which had two coaches, both associated with Moody Aviation. These men were Christians, and were determined to truly coach and encourage the boys and girls not only to be superior athletes, but to feel good about themselves and know good sportsmanship. These coaches corrected the players whenever necessary, but never verbally beat up on them. Their every statement ended with a note of encouragement.
On one of the other teams, there was a coach who was forever shouting at his team members - but never with a word of encouragement. When any of them made a mistake, you could hear him begin roaring, no matter where you were or how far away he was.
Many of the parents of children on the other teams felt sorry for those kids, and some even wanted to punch this guy in the mouth because of the way he incessantly bad-mouthed the kids when they made a mistake.
Some of his kids wound up on my son’s team the next year, and you could see a difference in their countenance, and in their spirit. There were several who clearly said how happy they were to be on my son’s team, and away from their former coach, who never had a single positive word for any of the kids.
It has been said that the thing most needed by any human being is to be loved. Another great need is to be encouraged in those thing in which we excel, and to realize our value and worth. Are you an encourager? Are you looking for the positive in others, and complimenting them, being an encouragement, helping them to realize their value as one created and loved by God?

Secondly, "according to the need of the moment

Paul goes on to say, “…according to the need of the moment.” Prov 15:28a says, “The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer.” As God’s people, our heart’s desire should be to say the appropriate thing, whatever the circumstance might be. This requires real discernment – knowing how to read a situation, and having the wisdom to choose the right words for that situation. If you are serious about becoming an encourager, you might ask God daily for wisdom so that you can be most effective in this area. “According to the need of the moment.”

God gave us some tremendous examples of this in the Old Testament. When God called Moses, we know that Moses offered a ton of excuses. In Exodus 3:11, we read, “But Moses said to God, "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?" Moses didn’t seem to have any confidence here. What does God say to him to offer assurance?
Exodus 3:12 tells us, " And God said, "Certainly I will be with you, and this shall be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain." God removes the focus from Moses to Himself. God says, “I will be with you.” That should have been enough. But God also offered assurance by guaranteeing success. “When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship me at this mountain.” Not ‘if’ – but ‘when’. The promise of success, along with the promise of God’s presence, was God’s fulfillment of the ‘need of the moment’.
After Moses had died, God spoke to Joshua about taking Moses’ place. Was it going to be an easy task? Do you suppose Joshua was nervous about such an undertaking? God must have thought so, because He offered 5 statements to encourage Joshua as he was about to begin the task. Each was definitely ‘according to the need of the moment’. God only placed one condition on Joshua: obedience to His law. In Joshua 1:5-9, we read, "No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. "Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.” Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." If God was to offer to us this much encouragement and support, how much greater might our faith be, and how much more might we accomplish for the kingdom?
Finally, when God called Jeremiah to preach to the people, Jeremiah was probably not yet 30 years old. In that culture, 30 years of age was when a male was considered to be a man – not before. Jeremiah was reluctant. Listen to the conversation between the two.
Jeremiah 1:4-8 ¶ Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations." Then I said, "Alas, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, Because I am a youth." But the Lord said to me, "Do not say, 'I am a youth,' Because everywhere I send you, you shall go, And all that I command you, you shall speak. "Do not be afraid of them, For I am with you to deliver you," declares the Lord."
We know of Jeremiah’s career as a prophet, and his continual preaching and frustration as the people refused to heed his warnings and turn from their sins and obey the Lord. God’s first response to Jeremiah’s hesitancy was to encourage him. Do not be afraid. I am with you to deliver you.

The third part: defining the purpose of the first two parts

The final phrase in this verse is, “that it may impart grace to those who hear.” Weymouth Bible translation implies that our words ‘should be a means of blessing to our hearers.’
Have you ever encountered a small child, struggling with a problem, whether it was homework, or trying to put together a toy or something, and the child was on the brink of tears? You probably calmly asked what the problem was, and then proceeded to show how the problem could be solved. Can you remember the sense of relief the child experienced, the excitement at seeing the problem solved, and the smile of gratitude you got in return for your help? Your words and help were certainly a blessing to that child. You imparted grace, whether you knew it or not.

In John, chapter 21, after Jesus' resurrection, some of Jesus’ former apostles have decided to go fishing. They are out all night, but catch nothing. As morning approaches, someone calls out to them from the shore, asking if they’ve had any luck. After giving their negative answer, they are encouraged to cast their net on the right hand side of the boat; they are assured they will find a catch of fish there. When the realization hits that it is Jesus, Peter impulsively puts on a garment and jumps into the water and swims to shore. But now comes what might be the hard part. Peter must face Jesus. Peter went out and wept bitterly after denying Jesus. How strongly he felt the shame of that betrayal we don’t know, but it wouldn’t have been something he could easily brush aside. Jesus had predicted Peter's denial, and if He had been like some of us, would have said, “I told you so.” But Jesus, instead, is intent on restoring and encouraging Peter. Three times, Jesus questions Peter about his love for Jesus. After each “Yes’ type answer, Jesus commissions Peter. Jesus first says, “Feed my lambs.” Next, He says, “Tend my sheep.” And, finally, Jesus says, “Feed my sheep.” All 3 statements are challenges to care for those who would be in the church – which will come into existence after Peter preached on the day of Pentecost. Jesus had promised Peter the keys of the kingdom in Matthew 16, and had stated that upon that rock – the faith that Peter had regarding Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God – He would build His church. Though Peter had failed, Jesus is not intent on punishing him, but reassuring him that Jesus still intends to use him in the church which is to be established. After making a cryptic statement regarding Peter’s future, Jesus ends with the command, “Follow me.”
The challenge is now ours – that our words to others, whatever their situation, will impart grace to those who hear them.
I was returning something to a store one day, and I could tell that the girl at the counter hated to see me there. When she asked me why I was there, I smiled and politely explained the problem, reassured her that I knew she had nothing to do with the problem, and kindly suggested the proper solution. When she realized I wasn’t there to bite her head off or swear at her or be mean or vicious, she thanked me with a smile, and gave a sigh of relief. Continuing to smile, I then said to her, “The next time you are in my situation, and you have the opportunity, remember this moment, and choose to treat the person you are dealing with graciously and with kindness.” “That it may impart grace to those who hear.”

A short review, with a challenge

So, then, we have these guidelines from the apostle Paul.

No unwholesome talk – no foul or worthless speech.
Each conversation designed to build up or encourage the other person.
Each effort to encourage to be appropriate to the situation.
Every person spoken to being truly blessed by the conversation.

Paul has stated the negative first, and then followed with three criteria for right communication and blessing for others. Take up the challenge and follow through as he has suggested. You may make an incredible difference in your world as you do this and challenge others to do so as well.

Tags

Blessing, Communication, Encouragement, Speech, Words

Meet the author

author avatar Glenn Addington
I am an American, former Viet Nam veteran, and a Christian, living in East Tennessee. I am now retired and am pursuing a writing career. I would welcome writing assignments.

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Comments

author avatar Len
11th Jun 2017 (#)

Well thought out. This is needed in our culture today, where everyone insists on their rights, and insists they are always right.

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9th Oct 2017 (#)

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