When I counsel families or couples, I like to have each person in the counseling session speak their commitment to change or improvement out loud. I feel it’s important that any person who makes a commitment for change hears the words that they release into the world. This is done with the hope that the other parties in the counseling session can agree to support that commitment and discuss what that process for change involves. Sometimes the other family members, or a significant other, may object to the authenticity of the commitment made, or claim that the commitment is simply “empty words.” Comments may be made such as “You always say that,” or “You’ve broken that promise before.” It really does become a matter of do the words that come out of one’s mouth empower or damage the people around them.
For Christians, confidence in the power and authority of words is equally important. Proverbs 18:21 reminds us “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” God’s Word tells us that every word that comes from our mouth has the power to heal or injure, to restore or destroy. God has given us a responsibility to use the power of breath and speech which He has given us for good. “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned,” (Matthew 12:34-37).
Not only can our words heal or hurt someone, but we are held accountable for every “empty word” we speak. So what constitutes an “empty word?” Well, any speech that does not show God’s love to the world. Colossians 4:5-6 states “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 conversations are to be full of grace and seasoned with salt. Every word we speak not only determines whether others will trust us or have confidence in us, they also reflect whether God is in our hearts. What is in our hearts, is projected from our mouths. What we love and value is what we talk about.
God knows that the world is always watching Christians to see if they truly live the love and compassion of Jesus that we preach. Our mouths are one of the tools by which we share our faith in the love and power of God. That’s why it’s so important for us to avoid “empty words” whenever we speak. “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander,” (1 Peter 3:15-16).
Andrew McCleary is pastor of life fellowship and community-based organization resource for the Tulare County Suicide Prevention Task Force. Prays Together is a rotating faith-based commentary and advice column among the pastors, and guest laypeople, of the First Presbyterian Church of Exeter, Church of Christ of Exeter, Nazarene Church of Exeter, Church of God of Exeter, the New Life Assembly of God and Rocky Hill Community Church and Lemon Cove Community Church.
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Sun-Gazette newspaper.