Ten Words to Live By

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The Power of Words
God created the world with words. Of all the creatures he made, only humanity is given the ability to use words. All animals can communicate, but only humans can use words. Words can contain meaning as hold that meaning forever. Words have power. They exist outside of us in some sense.

A single word or sentence can set off conflict --- or end it. When a word is spoken, it cannot be unspoken. When heard, it cannot be unheard.

The Ninth Word to Live By (Exodus 20:16) recognizes the power of words and the way that words can create trust and community. It is critical that we speak the truth to one another and about one another. Telling lies about others, or giving false testimony about others, uses words for evil rather than good. It tears apart relationships and breaks down community.

The one graduation speech I can remember was based on Prov. 25:11 – "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver." Words used rightly are precious things. And word used rightly is truth, because God is truth. And it is good, for God is good. And it is constructive, for God is life and God is love.

  1. Let us pay attention to what we say ...

  2. Let us pay attention to how we say it ...

  3. Let us pay attention to what we hear ...

It is a great responsibility to use words. There is a great responsibility in telling the truth, how we tell it, and what we will and will not listen to. If it seems hard, then know this: It is hard. But if words are going to mean anything at all, then we should thank God for the responsibility. And if words and truth mean anything to us then we will pay attention to what we say and how we say it – and we will pay attention to what we choose to listen to ...

When someone asked us if we believed “Jesus Christ is the Son of God” and we said yes – and if we were baptized into the name of Christ on the basis of that confession – then we very much must honor the sacredness and preciousness of truth and the responsibility of using words to bring life and build up.

[Sources consulted: The illustration of the thief and the “fence” is taken from Kalas, The Ten Commandments from the Back Side.]

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 2 December 2007

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