Read Proverbs 16:16-33
Children say cruel things to each other. Very few of us escape our school years without getting our feelings hurt over something another child said to us. Often as children, we were taught to respond to a verbal barb by saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Of course, that old saying is not true. Words wound us deeply. There’s a good chance you remember a time from years ago when someone spoke unkind words to you. Harsh words from a parent, teacher, or friend can linger for decades. That’s why wise people choose their words carefully.
Solomon wrote that wise people are prudent with their words (Proverbs 16:23), which means they show good judgment in their speech. As a result, their words help rather than hurt, and listening to individuals such as these motivates us to learn and embrace what is said. Foolish people give no thought to what they say, and their words cause damage. On the other hand, Solomon wrote,
Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. — Proverbs 16:24
It’s astounding to realize that our words have the potential to bring healing. In the ancient world, honey was the sweetest sub- stance available, and Solomon was intentional with his imagery.1
Not only are kind words sweet to the soul, but they have the potential to have a healing effect on the body. Most of us expect anything medicinal to be bitter in taste and sweets to be harmful, but kind words are both sweet and health-giving.2 The apostle Paul offered instruction to the church at Ephesus on how a Christ-follower is supposed to speak:
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
It’s easy for us to forget the impact our words have on other people. We have the potential to speak words that help or hurt, maim or heal. We need wisdom to choose our words wisely.
Father, thank You for the privilege we have to communicate with each other. I pray You will quickly convict me when I am out of line in my speech. Help me to speak words that are a benefit to those who hear. I pray I will routinely speak words of kindness and that my words will never harm.
Have you ever been on the receiving end of unkind words? How do those experiences influence your speech? Whom do you know that could benefit from a kind word from you today? How can you use your words to bring healing to someone who is hurting?
- Anders, 210.
Excerpted with permission from 10 Minutes in the Word: Proverbs, copyright Zondervan.
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Wise people choose their words carefully. We’ve all had words flung at us that stung and stuck. As believers with the Holy Spirit inside of us, we have His wisdom as well and can use words to heal instead of hurt. Come share your thoughts with us on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily