The interesting thing about the words we choose to use each day is that they can be simple in nature and yet always have a powerful effect. In the simple uttering of a sentence we have the power to lift someone’s spirits or shake them to their core. Our words can be the switch from elation to despair, light to dark. We see examples of this even from the words of Jesus as he forgives sins (Luke 7:48) or blasts the religious elite of the day (Matthew 23:33).
Like Jesus, it is our responsibility to choose our words carefully. Jesus knew the proper time to be delicate with a sinner, or harsh with a religious hypocrite. Jesus was also always aware of the audience to which he was speaking.
In our fallen nature, it is easy for us to lose sight of the significance of the things we say. We forget the impact our speech can have until they have left our mouth and the damage has taken place. We see a post on social media that we disagree with so we determine that we must respond. We are exhausted from the day so we snap at our children or our spouses. We get angry at the driver in front of us who made a mistake, deliberately or accidentally, so we curse them from the safety of our cars.
So how are we to navigate the proper way to use our words, especially in light of the stern warning from Jesus to the religious elite about the power of words to justify or condemn in Matthew 12:36-37? There he says, “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Paul offers us some great advice in Ephesians 4:29 –
No foul language is to come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear.
The answer is clear, we speak only what encourages, only what builds others up. Any other way of speaking simply accomplishes nothing or tears down. This does not mean that there won’t be times in our lives where a harsh word is necessary, but only when done so to lift one up. In these times, we should seek the Spirit to speak through us. Words are powerful. The measure for our words should always be encouragement and love.