Thursday, December 07, 2006



Boys flying kites haul in their white-winged birds.
You can't do that way when you're flying words....
Thoughts unexpressed may sometimes fall back dead;
But God Himself can't kill them when they're said.

Will Charleton was, to my boyhood poetical fancy, a rhymster of homely common sense. I valued a personal acquaintance with him, for we were guests in each other's homes. His Farm Ballads, from which these lines are taken, were of use in teaching me to read.

Few persons stop to think how much they use words. These little instruments can cause great happiness and also great sorrow. The wise man says much about them in his book of Proverbs. Among the Proverbs are these: "Death and life are in the power of the tongue." "A flattering mouth worketh ruin." "The words of a talebearer are as wounds." Jesus declared, "By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned." You will also recall the words of the apostle James, "If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body." He compares the tongue to a bit in a horse's mouth by which we guide him. He also likens the tongue to the small rudder of great ships by which they are turned and controlled even in storms. Says he, "Every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: but the tongue can no man tame." You ask, "Can no man tame his tongue so as to always speak the right word?" I reply, "That is what the Bible says."

"What, then, are we to do?" This is naturally and rightly the next question for us to ask, and the answer is not hard to find. Two texts of Scripture answer it: "Out of abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh," and "I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them."

"Expression deepens impression" has its application here. Kind words deepen kind feelings in the mind and the heart of the speaker. The prayers and songs of Paul and Silas in the Philippian prison must have made both of them more comfortable. Their wounds must have hurt less.

It is related that a dear old woman who had the kind-word habit never spoke ill of anyone. One day her niece rushed into her room with a complaint about one of her girl friends. The dear old aunt heard her through and then calmly offered an excuse for the offender. "Aunt," replied her niece, "I think you'd find something good to say about the devil."

"Well, my dear, I can say this about him: If we were all as diligent in doing right as he is in doing wrong we'd all have a home in heaven."

Thoughtless words often cause us embarrassment, and our embarrassment is sometimes increased by others' amusement. Quite some time ago a woman asked me about a certain man whom I knew. I answered her question, then remarked, "That man is a jack-in-a-box."

"What do you mean?" she inquired
"Oh," I said, "he's up and talking on all occasions, and sometimes he doesn't know what he is talking about."
"Well," she replied, "that's interesting. He's my brother."

Oh, yes, young people! I know what I'm talking about on this subject of words. However I don't know it all yet. Sad to say, I'm still having to learn, often - too often - the hard way! I long to keep you from the "word pitfalls."

It is often possible to accomplish more by saying nothing than by saying the inappropriate word. A Methodist preacher who was driving to his church on a Sunday picked up a boy whom he did not know. The boy had a string of fish that he had caught in the neighbouring pond. The preacher said nothing to the lad about his fishing on Sunday; instead he complimented him on his fine string of fish. Then he carried on such an interesting conversation that the boy came to his church, became an ardent member and ,later, the father of two gospel workers, one a great preacher and the other a foreign missionary.

Elijah had played the coward and run away from Jezebel, and the Lord sought to correct him. A great wind that broke rocks and split mountains passed by, but the Lord was not in the wind. Then an earthquake and a fire came, but the Lord was not in them. Finally a small voice was heard, and in that the Lord revealed Himself by the question, "What doest thou here, Elijah?" In those five words God accomplished His purpose. The Lord speaks at times through the wind, the earthquake, and the fire; but more often He speaks through the "still, small voice."

"Like apples of gold in pictures of silver" is the divine description of the right sort of words. They fit the occasion. Solomon also says of such words: "A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoke in due season, how good is it!" I believe that no man ever lived who knew better than Solomon the value of a word for good or evil.

I fancy Job's visitors really desired to comfort him in his affliction, but what a sorry mess they made of it! They did not enter into sympathy with him. They gave him grievous words, not kind and understanding ones.

Solomon says, "With all thy getting get understanding." I would add "words" to that injuction!

So many worthless words are spoken in rapid conversation. It has been said that "a very great part of the mischiefs that vex the world come from words." Kind pleasantries which we say to our friends regarding their looks, doings, and ways are sometimes tinged with unpleasant insinuations that hurt, perhaps but slightly as a pinprick. Pinprick humour will usually be returned with added spite, and so back and forth, until swords are drawn and friendship and love are cut asunder.

Practical jokes are a form of this sort of humour. A practical joker tells how he was cured of this habit. He says that he had a warm friend in his home city, New York, who was quite penny-wise. The joker took a trip across the country to San Francisco, and thought it would be a good joke on his careful-of-money friend in New York City to send him a collect telegram. He sent this wire, "I am very well. Hope this finds you the same." In due time this practical joker received a heavy package express collect on which he paid $4.96 express charges. Opening it, he found a cement block with this note pasted on it: "This weight is lifted off my heart by your cheering message." The joker was cured by paying the $4.96.

I have known of one or two practical jokes that came near to taking the lives of those on the whom they were played. To all practical jokers I would say, It need not cost you a cent to be cured - merely quit. "Physician, heal thyself." It's human nature to put a drop of vinegar into the pleasant quips we pass to our friends; but why not put in lumps of sugar instead? It pays.

Talebearing gossip is another cause of sorrow, and before I had grown into my teens I learned a lesson about this evil habit. My father had a young farmhand, Rodney, and mother have a house girl, Angelina. They fell in love and were silly about it, to the amusement of the large family. One day I said to Angelina, "You love Rodney." "No, I don't," she snapped. I ran to Rodney with, "Angelina says she doesn't love you." "I don't care," said he. I diplomatically carried that word to Angelina, and took her response to Rodney. Back and forth I went carrying words, words, words, and in two days, the couple would hardly speak to each other. I had fun for several days until they took a long walk, came back, and told me what they thought of me. What they said to me went far toward curing me of talebearing, and I didn't pay $4.96 tuition either.

"There are few who realize how far-reaching is the influence of their words and acts... Everyone is exerting an influence upon others, and will be held accountable for the result of that influence... The impression made by our words and deeds will surely react upon ourselves in blessing or in cursing."-Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, page 556.

Taken from "That Million Dollar Moment", by Frederick Griggs


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