It has been suggested that most native, English speaking adults have a vocabulary of 20,000-35,000 words. Currently, my total estimate is around 23,400, but don’t ask me to list them. Each day, we depend on an arsenal of words to convey both meaning and feeling. With enough words at our disposal to fill a good dictionary, one would think we’d know how to use them.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”
So went the childhood rebuttal I learned to use on the playground. This, on occasion, was substituted for the less eloquent, but equally poetic I’m made of rubber, you’re made of glue. Whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks right on to you *insert tongue wag*. Oh how I wish these linguistic defense measures were as true as they were verbose.
The truth is, words are powerful. They’ve been so since the dawn of time as we know it. In the beginning, God started our world with four words: Let there be light (Genesis 1:3). At the cross, the same God saved our world with three words: It is finished (John 19:30). Now, we hang our hopes on five more words from the same, ever-loving God: Behold, I am coming soon! (Revelation 22:7).
The truth is, words are potent. James, highlighting its unconsecrated potency, calls the tongue “a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8). When used carelessly, words nip, cut, dent, and bruise. When used maliciously, words discourage, deceive, divide, and destroy. When used wisely, words create, inspire, soothe, and heal. Solomon was right in saying, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit” (Proverbs 18:21).
The truth is, words are precious. With our words we paint pictures for the imagination, convey truth for the mind, and offer comfort for the heart. Thoughtfully chosen words can be the best gifts given. Consider the following:
“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” James 3:9, 10
“Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.” James 1:26
“But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.” Matthew 12:36
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29
Today, let’s make a covenant to use our powerful, potent, and precious words to the glory of God and uplifting of humanity!
Devotional Reading: James 1:26; 3:1-12