THE POSITIVE SIDE
We described the negative side. There is also a positive aspect to the use of words. Take a look at these Bible verses:
A man has joy in an apt answer, and how delightful is a timely word (Proverbs 15:23).
Words from the mouth of a wise man are gracious, while the lips of a fool consume him; the beginning of his talking is folly, and the end of it is wicked madness (Ecclesiastes 10:12-13).
Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances (Proverbs 25:11).
Righteous lips are the delight of kings, and he who speaks right is loved (Proverbs 16:13).
Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones (Proverbs 16:24).
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger (Proverbs 15:1).
The tongue of the righteous is as choice silver, the heart of the wicked is worth little (Proverbs 10:20).
A soothing tongue is a tree of life, but perversion in it crushes the spirit (Proverbs 15:4).
GOOD WORDS IN BAD TIMES
The Bible story of Joseph gives us a good example. His brothers, who despised him and determined to get rid of him, sold him into slavery.
Joseph, however, after many trials and difficulties, achieved a place in Egypt second only to the king. When a time of famine came, Joseph was given charge of distributing food. His brothers had to go to Egypt to get some food, and were aghast when they discovered who Joseph was.
To compound their fear, their father died during this time. They decided to send Joseph a message, begging for mercy. This was the message:
“Your father charged before he died, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to Joseph, “Please forgive, I beg you, the transgression of your brothers and their sin, for they did you wrong.”’ And now, please forgive the transgressions of the servants of the God of your father.” And Joseph wept when they spoke to him. Then his brothers also came and fell down before him and said: “Behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph said to them: “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. So, therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them (Genesis 50:16-21).
Comforting, kindly words—backed by appropriate action, and based on Joseph’s faith in God, not on the behavior of his brothers. What a relief this must have been to them!
USING YOUR TALK TO PUT PEOPLE AT EASE
A small child accidently spilled her milk. She looked anxiously up at her mother, who quietly said:
“You put your glass too close to your elbow, didn’t you?” One could see the relief on the child’s face. It certainly was better than just lashing out at the child, wasn’t it?
Her words taught the child how to avoid repetition of the incident.
Later that evening, the small child was reluctant to go to bed. Quietly, but firmly, the mother said:
“You are to go to bed!” The child still didn’t go, so mother took her by the arm and firmly directed her toward the bedroom.
One could see the child stiffen, and then give up as mother continued:
“You need a good night’s sleep.”
This mother set the tone in her family by her soft answers that issued from a kind heart, again backed by appropriate action.
Once I told this story to a group of mothers. One lady in the audience was in the habit of giving her children tongue lashings over spilled milk. On the spot, she breathed a prayer of repentance and asked God to teach her to speak lovingly and quietly.
That same night, her child spilled some orange juice. To her surprise, the lady said quietly:
“Next time, keep the glass away from your elbow.”
Amazed and wide-eyed, the child looked at her mother and said:
“Would it work if I spilled some milk?”
This lady couldn’t wait to tell me about the change in her the next time our paths crossed. Is it not obvious that such conversation is necessary if we are to have congenial relations with each other?
SOFT TALK IS NOT NECESSARILY “SISSY TALK” OR “WEAK TALK”
The positive use of words does not imply a namby-pamby, spineless person who has no opinions or takes no action. We are surrounded by responsibility for employees, fellow laborers, family members, and friends. Frequently, everyone must deal with the evil intentions of other people.
God said of Himself:
Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; be zealous, therefore, and repent (Revelation 3:19).
Jesus, when instructing His disciples, taught them:
Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him…and if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, “I repent,” forgive him (Luke 17:3-4).
In his second letter to Timothy, Paul instructed him:
Preach the word: be ready in season, and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction (2 Timothy 4:2).
Again, Paul instructed Timothy:
Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, to the younger men as brothers, the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity (1 Timothy 5:1).
To the Ephesians, he wrote:
Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear (Ephesians 4:29).
A few years ago, I was pondering the meaning of a verse having to do with our relations to one another:
Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24).
While I was mulling over the meaning of that verse, a friend shared the following incident that confirms that passage.