-Ephesians 4. 29 (NRSV)
I don’t know about you, but lately it seems to me that the public discourse has spun out of control, that there are no boundaries on words and their use to bully, belittle and blame. Or, maybe, this isn’t a contemporary problem since both ancient Hebrew Scriptures and even the words of Jesus have cautions about how we use our words.
For example, the writer of the wisdom book of Ecclesiastes warns us, “Do not let your mouth lead you into sin, and do not say before the messenger that it was a mistake; why should God be angry at your words, and destroy the work of your hands?” (5:6)
And the writer of the Gospel According to Matthew tell us that Jesus instructed, “I tell you, on the Day of Judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (12.36-37)
Evidently the ancients had just as big a problem with the use of words to harm and hurt, as we do today. I suppose it feels like a greater problem today because we hear it so readily through our 24/7-news cycle and through the phenomenon of the Internet and social media.
I just can’t help but think of the words of Captain Miller, played by Tom Hanks in the movie Saving Private Ryan, who said, “I just know every time I kill someone, I feel further away from home.” And I can’t help but think that we are killing each other with our words, sometimes figuratively and sometimes literally, in the case of bullying that has played a hand in our children killing themselves out of despair. And every time we do that we move further and further from our home in God.
I think it is time that we hold our politicians, business leaders, professional athletes, movie stars, and music moguls and even ourselves accountable for the words we use that do harm to others. Let’s call for a boycott on words that bully, belittle and blame. Instead, let us heed the call of the Apostle Paul to build each other up with our words so that we may give grace to those who hear them.
I’m in, what about you?
Holy One, You brought our world into being with a word. I pray now that you would help me to use my words to build up your people and your creation on this good earth. Amen.