Ephesians 4:24 - 5:2

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“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me!” Really? If that’s true then why is Don Imus out of a job? Imus did not throw any sticks or stones, but by his own admission he did hurl some hurtful words. Perhaps words are not as harmless as the old saying supposes.

This isn’t the first time and will probably not be the last time that insensitive and hurtful words spoken in the public square will cause us to reflect on the way we talk. Whether or not celebrities and media outlets strive to police themselves, it would be beneficial for us to reflect on the power of words. Words can hurt, but they can also heal. Words can tear down, but words can also build up.

The power of words is demonstrated so clearly in the creation story. God speaks our world into existence with words. The naming of things defines realities. God sets up definitions by naming night and day, land and sea, human and animals. Of all the creatures that God creates he gives on the power to use words.

The destructive power of words is also evident in the Genesis story. With the subtle twisting of words and lies, the relationship between God and his creation is disrupted. Our relationship with one another is also strained because of the misuse and abuse of words.

This reading in Ephesians shows us that as God’s people we are to walk worthy of our calling. We must maintain the oneness of the spirit and the bond of peace. Living out the new life in Christ involves making choices about our behavior. In this text, the writer specifically urges us to overcome lying, anger, stealing, and evil talk. Literally, this kind of talk is described as rotten and worthless. (Sapros in Greek means rotten and decayed).

The opposite of the rotten and worthless speech is the sort of talk that builds others up. It is good because it benefits them. And we want to speak this way because we God’s children and we want our speech to be just like his – that’s quite a goal because when God spoke he created good things.

We always have a choice when we open our mouths to speak: Our speech can be rotten and destructive or it can build up and benefit. We can use words to hurt, or we can use words to heal.

How will you use your words today? What sort of words will come out of your mouth? I am not encouraging you to feel guilty, rather I would like to encourage you to feel holy and urge you to talk like one of God’s children. I pray that these words will build you up.

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 13 May 2007

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