“Kind words are like honey – sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.”
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
Last summer our refrigerator died. It was one of those small, old, off-white refrigerators that was probably in style at one point but over time its glory had faded. When we invested in a new refrigerator, we purposefully chose one twice the size of that tiny fridge because our family is growing and we enjoy having people over for meals. I was so excited for our new, big fridge and all of the meals I would now have room to freeze in it!
What I hadn’t considered, however, is how my husband and I would move this new giant fridge through the narrow doorways of our 1950’s era home. It quickly became apparent that the only doorway wide enough to accommodate this large appliance would be the double doors at the back patio of the house. In order to reach this doorway, we would have to roll the heavy fridge up the driveway, around the side of the house, around an air conditioner unit, through a fence gate, over a concrete patio edge, and then through the double doors.
We strapped the fridge to the appliance dolly and began the incredible feat of maneuvering it around the house and to the back yard. It looked like a scene from a sitcom. Because of how wide the fridge was, my husband wasn’t able to see where he was rolling the dolly, and had to rely solely on my verbal instruction to make the tight corners and angles. One wrong word from me could lead to the massive fridge missing the lip of the sidewalk, or scraping the side of the fence and flopping over into our yard. The stakes were high, and every word of guidance from my mouth mattered. Thanks to his physical strength and my carefully chosen words, we were successful in moving the fridge safely into its new home in the kitchen.
Why Words Matter
Where my physical strength lacks, my words can move mountains. (Or at least refrigerators.)
The words we use throughout our day carry tremendous power. Over years, our words of encouragement, challenge, and love can faithfully build relationships. And yet in just seconds, our careless or calculated words can destroy a friendship. James’ words in James 3 describe this well:
“Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires. So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things.
See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on first the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race.
But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; From the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.”
Our words can bring healing, and yet our words can bring pain:
“There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
Our words show us the state of our hearts:
“But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man.”
Our words matter because they hold incredible strength. Our words shape the course of our days and the course of our relationships. Are we being diligent to use the strength of our words to build up others…or to tear them down?
Bitter or Fresh Water?
James continues speaking about the power of the tongue through the analogy of a fountain:
Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water?
Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs?
Nor can salt water produce fresh.”
Our tongues and words have the power to show us the state of our hearts. If you were to write out every word you have spoken this week (Google says the average person speaks about 11,000 words a day!), what do you think you might learn about your heart? I can think of two women in Scripture whose words clearly revealed what was in their hearts:
Delilah was a woman living in the time of the Judges. She was married to a man named Samson, who was known for his incredible physical strength. There were Philistines living in the land at the time who were hungry to overpower Samson. They knew that they were no match for Samson’s strength, so the enlisted the help of his wife:
“The lords of the Philistines came up to her [Delilah] and said to her, ‘Entice him, and see where his great strength lies and how we may overpower him that we may bind him to afflict him. Then we will each give you eleven hundred pieces of silver.’” Judges 16:5
There is a lot we could unpack in this verse about how taking a bribe to bring down your husband (and taking it so quickly and easily!) is not a great characteristic in a wife, but for this post I specifically wanted to look at how Delilah uses her words to go about this malicious task.
Delilah is not dumb. She knows that in a physical altercation with Samson, she wouldn’t stand a chance. Our culture loves Cinderella stories of the smaller, weaker team overcoming the strong, top dog. But, in reality, men tend to be physically stronger than women. This is why my husband carries the heavy end of a refrigerator and why the award of the “heaviest weight ever lifted in the world” is held by a man (the record is over 6,000lbs by the way). This is why women are more likely to carry pepper spray than men, and why the make-up of mens and womens sports is so hotly debated in our nation today.
Delilah knows her physical strength will not get her what she wants, and as women, we know this too. Instead of confronting Samson in a physical altercation, she uses the heavy-lifting power of her words. She entices and teases him, manipulating him to confess the secret of his strength (Judges 16:6-15). When this doesn’t work, she begins nagging him daily until “his soul was annoyed to death. So he told her all that was in his heart.” (Judges 16:16).
Through nagging and complaining, Delilah finally manipulates Samson into revealing the secret of his strength, and he is captured by the Philistines. Without even lifting a finger, Delilah brings down this strong man. She used her words to manipulate and destroy, and our words today likewise hold this same strength:
-We tear down our husbands when we nag about that unfinished house project or picking up his laundry.
-We are careless with our words when we allow our tone of voice to reveal what we actually think.
-We manipulate our husbands when we complain to our children loudly enough that we hope he overhears.
-We manipulate and lie to our children when we answer “I don’t know” to a question we do know the answer to in order to avoid a tantrum or disappointing them
-We tear down ourselves when we criticize our actions and call ourselves dumb or incapable
-We purposefully withhold encouraging or thankful words
And we can do all of this with our words in just one day! When I reflect on the ways I have used the strength of my words even just this week, I find that I often am not as different from Delilah as I would like to believe. Words like these tear down. Often my words do not glorify God, and I have to be quick to recognize them, repent, and ask the Spirit to help me use words that do glorify Him. We will be held accountable for every careless word we speak:
“The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 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.”
Another woman who powerfully used her words can be found in the book of Esther. Esther was a beautiful Jewish woman who, through the providence of God, found herself in the position of queen of a kingdom. Word came to her that a holocaust-like plan was about to be implemented against the Jewish people. Chapter 4 in the book of Esther shows how Esther faced a dilemma:
“All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that for any man or woman who comes to the king to the inner court who is not summoned, he has but one law, that he be put to death, unless the king holds out to him the golden scepter so that he may live. And I have not been summoned to come to the king for these thirty days.”
Her uncle replies:
“Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?”
Risking her own life, she spoke and appealed to the King to stop this impending genocide. Through her words, Esther was used by God to save a nation of people.
I pray the Lord would make me more like Esther: to not withhold words, but to use words boldly for God. Esther’s words brought forth life. Our words likewise can bring life when:
-We encourage by telling our children how much we love them
-We show gratitude by thanking our husbands and speaking encouragement to them
-We challenge in love by telling a friend the sin we see in her life, and coming alongside her to help her fight for godliness
-We praise and glorify God by speaking Scripture in our daily conversations
-We build up when we don’t withhold words, but offer genuine words of encouragement
-We sharpen one another when we speak about what we are learning in the Word and how we see God moving in our lives
Imitating Christ with our Words
Our strength as women lies not in how much we can bench press or if we can carry a refrigerator. Our strength is different than that of men. As Godly women, we have to recognize how strong and powerful our words are, and ask the Spirit to help us use our words to glorify God.
A strong woman of God imitates Christ through speaking life-giving words.
We can grow familiar with life-giving words by reading His Word, the Bible, consistently and daily. When I spend time immersing myself in life-giving words, it becomes much easier to use them in my daily life. Spending time with His Words helps me recognize when I am using words that tear down, and helps me be quick to repent and ask for forgiveness. If you aren’t sure where to start, begin with the Gospel of John, which begins “In the beginning was the Word.”
Let’s be women of God who love and spend time with God’s Word.