The Power of Words


LORD, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
   Who may live on your holy mountain?
 The one whose walk is blameless,
   who does what is righteous,
   who speaks the truth from their heart. —Psalm 15:1–2

I’m sure most of us can remember that childhood retort when someone called us a nasty name on the playground: Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. As adults, I think we can all agree that sometimes that is not true at all. Words can and do hurt us.

Given the time, I am sure we could all remember a stinging comment from a boss about our work performance, a slight from a colleague, or a criticism from a parent that has stuck in our psyche long after the words were uttered. We all know that words are, in fact, very powerful and how we use them actually reflects upon our relationship with God.

King David understood this. In Psalm 15, he posed the question, “LORD, who may dwell in your sacred tent?” In the next verse, David provides the answer: “The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous, who speaks truth from the heart.” Such person, according to David, doesn’t slander his neighbor, keeps her promises, and doesn’t insult others.

The Proverbs give much attention to our use of words. The godly person uses words that are helpful (10:32), that bring healing (12:18) and encouragement (12:25). This person knows exactly the right thing to say at the right time (15:23). In contrast, the godless person uses words that are perverse (10:32), that are hurtful and destructive (11: 9), and which crush the spirit (15:4). As Proverbs 12:18 says, “The words of the reckless pierce like swords.”

Our words can destroy, crush, and pierce. Or they can heal, encourage, and help others. As people of faith, Jews and Christians alike, how we use our words should reflect the One we serve.

Who can dwell in God’s sacred tent? The one who uses his or her words carefully, thoughtfully, truthfully, and with integrity.

What do your words say about you?

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