The other day I was looking at our table setting and pondered the place mats. On the front, as I was looking at it, is a border with a paisley design running down the center.
The back is the same fabric as the border, uniform and without any extra design.
The place mat performs the same function, no matter which side is up; but the two sides are definitely different.
It made me think of what people say, and how sometimes they say one thing when, immediately thereafter, they say something else. Or, they may say the same words on two occasions, but the meaning is very different. For example, consider the words “Bless her heart!” Said with a loving spirit, the words can be comforting, to be sure. But, said with a condescending tone (as sometimes occurs in the South!), those same words indicate anything but blessing!
Scripture says much about our speech. Indeed, a search for the word “word” reveals hundreds of instances of its use in the text of Scripture. Here are some illustrations of speech and its ramifications:
Words can bring about thanksgiving and praise to the Lord, such as when Abraham’s servant found Rebekah and she was given to him to take to Isaac as his wife:
“When Abraham’s servant heard their words, he bowed himself to the earth before the LORD.”
Other words can bring sorrow and strife within the family, as when Esau found out that Jacob, his twin brother, had taken Esau’s birthright blessing.
“As soon as Esau heard the words of his father, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me, even me also, O my father!””
The Psalmist wrote of the power of words on multiple occasions. Here are a couple for consideration:
“And when one comes to see me, he utters empty words, while his heart gathers iniquity; when he goes out, he tells it abroad.”
“For the sin of their mouths, the words of their lips, let them be trapped in their pride. …”
In these verses we see the one who comes and brings platitudes, probably with a smile on his face, but the real purpose of the visit is to gain information, not to bring comfort. Then, when the visit is over, the phone line lights up with the “dirt” discovered during the “comforting” visit!
There are many references to words in the Book of Proverbs as well.
“The eyes of the LORD keep watch over knowledge, but he overthrows the words of the traitor.”
“Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”
Lest we think only harsh pronouncements are made in Proverbs, we also read:
“Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.”
In today’s American culture, this proverb may not have much meaning to the general reader. But, I well remember when my own Father would get a jar of honey, which included the honeycomb. He would relish the sweetness of the honeycomb, including eating it in front of me with his eyes closed and a soft “Mmmmm” sounding from the depths of his being.
Such is the picture of one uttering gracious words to another who is in need of love and encouragement.
We seem to capitalize on the flippant, hasty word, but such is not the perspective of Scripture. Indeed, the Lord takes what we say seriously, often more seriously than we take our own words! This truth is evident in Jesus’ words in Matthew 12:
“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Considering the number of words that I speak each day, Jesus’ words cause me to stop and contemplate what I have said or what I am in the process of saying. My prayer is that of David, so long ago, as recorded in Psalm 19:
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.”
Father, I speak so carelessly, and there are times that I want to retract what I have said but I cannot put my mouth in reverse! Forgive me, Lord, when I have spewed forth things that are unloving, unhelpful, or even untrue. May my words be acceptable to You, my loving Lord and Savior.