The stakes are high. Our words can either speak life, or our words can speak death. Our tongues can build others up, or they can tear them down. An unchecked fire doubles in size every minute. The right word spoken at the right time not only puts out fires but helps create fertile ground for healing and growth.
What we say, the tone with which we say it, and how we frame what we say have wide-reaching implications. For Jesus followers the bar by which we are to determine when to speak, when not to speak, and what should actually be spoken (posted, tweeted, shared, etc.) is incredibly high. We are never given the right to just “speak freely” without regard for the impact of our words. Hurt, anger, frustration, bitterness, resentment, grief, and even excitement in no way nullify our responsibility to exclusively speak words that give life.
Consider the high bar that is set for our words:
- Eph 4:29: 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.
- Pro 15:1: A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
- Col 4:5-6: Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
Our words will serve as either a fire that shuts down dialogue and seeks to win arguments at the expense of relationship or will serve as fertile ground that will encourage others, cultivate unity, and promote healing.
Let’s draw some contrasts to offer an opportunity for self-evaluation.
Which kind of words are you using – Fire or Fertile?
Let’s consider a few examples:
Fire Words - How could you even think about ending the “Stay home, stay safe” measures? People are still dying every day. That’s incredibly selfish and entitled.
Fertile Words - Help me understand why you think the quarantine measures need to end. With the numbers where they are, if we just hold on a little longer it will be so much better for everyone.
Fire Words - I refuse to wear a mask. It’s stupid and an infringement on my personal rights.
Fertile Words - I hate wearing masks. I’m not sure they even do any good. However, if it makes people feel safer around me I’m willing to do it as an act of love.
Fire Words - When the church reopens I will not be coming back to church unless they do/don’t . . .
Fertile Words - I’m really excited about coming back to church as soon as possible and getting to gather with my church family. As we are working toward that I am concerned about . . .
Fire Words - Pastors who haven’t opened their churches yet are cowards, have bought into the hysteria, refuse to lead out, are just following the crowd, etc.
Fertile Words - There are so many things pastors and church leaders need to take into account as they figure out how/when to reopen churches. I’m praying for wisdom and the clear leading of the Holy Spirit.
Fire Words - Hail Whitler!
Fertile Words - I believe the restrictions and length of this “Stay home, stay safe” quarantine have reached a point where they may be causing more harm than good. Help me understand why you believe they are still necessary at this point.
Fire Words - Governor Whitless is a tyrant, a political patsy, an overzealous dictator, etc.
Fertile Words - The economic impact of these extended “Stay home, stay safe” measures are wide-ranging and crippling for many. I believe she has potentially overreached at this point.
Fire Words - Those protestors are ignorant, idiots, selfish, racist, have absolutely no regard for the well-being of anyone else, etc. How dare they!
Fertile Words - The impact of all of this has disproportionately impacted different groups of people and I empathize with those that are at risk of losing their business and/or are unable to care for their families. I do disagree with the way some of those who have protested at the capital have chosen to express themselves.
Fire Words - This is all a hoax, a conspiracy, etc! You need to watch this movie, read this article, or listen to this podcast. All these stupid sheep need to wake up and realize they have been duped.
Fertile Words - I’m struggling to know who to listen to. Who’s telling the truth? The statistics are all over the place. It all feels so politicized and confusing.
Fire Words - People that are staying home and refuse to go to work and/or go out and run errands, or are otherwise terrified of this virus are stupid, weak, pathetic, etc.
Fertile Words - This virus affects people in so many different ways, it’s possible to have it and be asymptomatic, is mutating into different strands and doesn’t have a cure right now. I empathize greatly with those that are doing everything in their power to keep themselves and their family safe.
Fire Words - People that are out and about, not wearing masks as often as they should, and are pushing for things to reopen are reckless and dangerous.
Fertile Words - I’m not sure enough people are taking the virus as seriously as they should, but if we are eventually going to establish needed herd immunity I’m grateful we have people who are willing to risk getting sick. This is such a tough time for so many.
Fire Words - Pastor, if you refuse to lead out and won’t reopen the church you are contributing to the problems so many are facing and you may have blood on your hands from people who have died without Christ.
Fertile Words - I’m concerned about the negative impact not holding worship services is having on our community. How soon will we be able to reopen?
The tongue holds the power of life and death, choose life.
IT'S power is too great and OUR mission too vital to do otherwise.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Ps 19:14