Thursday, May 28
Scripture: Proverbs 10-12, Romans 10
Proverbs 10:11 The words of the godly are a life-giving fountain; the words of the wicked conceal violent intentions.
Proverbs 10:13 Wise words come from the lips of people with understanding, but those lacking sense will be beaten with a rod.
Proverbs 10:20 The words of the godly are like sterling silver; the heart of a fool is worthless.
Proverbs 10:21 The words of the godly encourage many, but fools are destroyed by their lack of common sense.
Proverbs 10:32 The lips of the godly speak helpful words, but the mouth of the wicked speaks perverse words.
Proverbs 11:9 With their words, the godless destroy their friends, but knowledge will rescue the righteous.
Proverbs 11:12 It is foolish to belittle one’s neighbor; a sensible person keeps quiet.
Proverbs 12:6 The words of the wicked are like a murderous ambush, but the words of the godly save lives.
Proverbs 12:13 The wicked are trapped by their own words, but the godly escape such trouble.
Proverbs 12:14 Wise words bring many benefits, and hard work brings rewards.
Proverbs 12:18 Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing.
Notice a theme in these verses from today’s reading in Proverbs? They all have to do with our words. Our words can be a life-giving fountain, wise, encouraging, helpful, beneficial and healing. Or they can be perverse, destructive, belittling, murderous, and cutting.
Words are incredibly powerful. Later in Proverbs it says that the power of life and death lies in the tongue.
These verses are a great reminder to guard our tongues, to be careful what we say. Once spoken (or you hit the send button), words can’t be taken back. I can’t tell you how many times (countless) I’ve had to apologize for something I said.
I am a professional wordsmith. Words are the tools of my trade as a pastor. As a public speaker and writer, my words are constantly being scrutinized by thousands of people. No matter how careful I am, some people are sure to find fault. I live with constant backlash–it’s an occupational hazard. (I often say that I’m an equal-opportunity offender. If you stick around long enough, I’m bound to say something that will offend you!)
In yesterday’s email, Michael carefully addressed the anguish people are feeling about George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. He received some emotional replies. A few thought he was too mild and could have used stronger language. Others thought he misrepresented the situation by making it racial. Some angrily called him names—not helpful.
Michael didn’t actually say that the officers’ treatment was racially motivated, but that could have been implied from what he said—and some people took offense at that. The truth is, I don’t know the officers’ motivation (neither does Michael). I don’t know the officers. I do think their treatment of Mr. Floyd was inexcusable; it was excessive and inhumane—to put it mildly. Was it racially motivated? I don’t know. Maybe it was—we have a long sad history of racism that could lead people to make that assumption. Maybe it wasn’t. I just don’t know.
I do know that I need to be careful what I say—we all do. I do know that assuming we know another’s motives is risky—we’re guessing and we’re not good guessers. And I know that calling people names and labeling people is unhelpful and only escalates tensions. We need to be able to have honest, courageous and difficult conversations about these subjects.
And that means we all have to pay attention to our words.
Prayer: Lord, help me speak in life-giving, encouraging, helpful and healing ways.