Psalm 19:9-14 Common English Bible (CEB)
9 Honoring the LORD is correct,
The LORD’s judgments are true.
All of these are righteous!
10 They are more desirable than gold—
than tons of pure gold!
They are sweeter than honey—
even dripping off the honeycomb!
11 No doubt about it:
your servant is enlightened by them;
there is great reward in keeping them.
12 But can anyone know
what they’ve accidentally done wrong?
Clear me of any unknown sin
13 and save your servant from willful sins.
Don’t let them rule me.
Then I’ll be completely blameless;
I’ll be innocent of great wrongdoing.
14 Let the words of my mouth
and the meditations of my heart
be pleasing to you,
LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
The old and new life
17 So I’m telling you this, and I insist on it in the Lord: you shouldn’t live your life like the Gentiles anymore. They base their lives on pointless thinking, 18 and they are in the dark in their reasoning. They are disconnected from God’s life because of their ignorance and their closed hearts. 19 They are people who lack all sense of right and wrong, and who have turned themselves over to doing whatever feels good and to practicing every sort of corruption along with greed.
20 But you didn’t learn that sort of thing from Christ. 21 Since you really listened to him and you were taught how the truth is in Jesus, 22 change the former way of life that was part of the person you once were, corrupted by deceitful desires. 23 Instead, renew the thinking in your mind by the Spirit 24 and clothe yourself with the new person created according to God’s image in justice and true holiness.
25 Therefore, after you have gotten rid of lying, Each of you must tell the truth to your neighbor[b] because we are parts of each other in the same body. 26 Be angry without sinning.[c] Don’t let the sun set on your anger. 27 Don’t provide an opportunity for the devil. 28 Thieves should no longer steal. Instead, they should go to work, using their hands to do good so that they will have something to share with whoever is in need.
29 Don’t let any foul words come out of your mouth. Only say what is helpful when it is needed for building up the community so that it benefits those who hear what you say. 30 Don’t make the Holy Spirit of God unhappy—you were sealed by him for the day of redemption. 31 Put aside all bitterness, losing your temper, anger, shouting, and slander, along with every other evil. 32 Be kind, compassionate, and forgiving to each other, in the same way God forgave you in Christ.
5 Therefore, imitate God like dearly loved children. 2 Live your life with love, following the example of Christ, who loved us and gave himself for us. He was a sacrificial offering that smelled sweet to God. imitate God like dearly loved children. 2 Live your life with love, following the example of Christ, who loved us and gave himself for us. He was a sacrificial offering that smelled sweet to God.
This is the word of God for us the people of God. Thanks be to God.
The Power of Words – Tearing Down or Building Up?
“Handle them carefully, for words have more power than atom bombs.” Pearl Strahan Hurd
“You can change your world by changing your words…Remember death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Joel Osteen
“Don’t mix your words with your mood, you can change your mood but you can’t take back your words.”
“One kind word can change someone’s entire day.”
During August, we are going to consider the power that our words carry – both the words that we speak, and the words that we fail to speak. Words have the power to build up. Words have the power to tear down. And I am going to challenge you to practice the advice we find in scripture this month. I am going to challenge you to use your words to build one another up instead of tear one another down. I’m going to ask you to begin to notice your words and to be purposeful about the words you use. And then, I want you to consider what kind of difference that might make.
Can you imagine how different every aspect of our lives and our world might be if we only used words that expressed the love of Christ – if we only used words inspired by the Holy Spirit – words that were kind and showed compassion and patience..words that were full of goodness, gentleness and self-control.
Can you imagine how our marriages might change? Can you imagine how our relationships with our children and grandchildren might change? Can you imagine how our workplaces might change? And our schools? Can you imagine how our chance encounters with strangers might change? Can you imagine how politics might change? Do you think the atmosphere on social media would be different? And could you imagine even how our church might change? Do you think our mission to tell the world about the love of God might be enhanced if we only used words that build up?
This scripture from Ephesians is written by the Apostle Paul as advice to the church in Ephesus; he’s writing from prison to people who were new followers of Jesus, and he’s describing what it means and how it looks to live now that they are believers. He’s telling them to grow up – to mature in their faith. If you would, look back at Ephesians 4:1, I want you to see the overall idea that Paul is encouraging the church toward.
Therefore, as a prisoner for the Lord, I encourage you to live as people worthy of the call you received from God. Conduct yourselves with all humility, gentleness and patience. Accept each other with love and make an effort to preserve unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties you together. Ephesians 4:1-3
Throughout chapter 4, Paul is explaining how it is that the church is called to live as people worthy of God’s call. And it is pretty simple, isn’t it? Paul doesn’t say we have to accomplish these huge, amazing works for God, but he says that whatever we do, we are to be humble, gentle and patient – that we are to love each other and be unified. One of the ways that we live out this calling from God is to speak words that are humble and gentle and patient. And in today’s scripture Paul draws a stark comparison between the old behavior and the new behavior. The attitude and words from the old life as non-believers and their new life as followers of Jesus should be vastly different. And so, we are going to look at the very real application of this call to imitate Christ, and I hope that we will practice imitating Christ by using our words to build up instead of tear down.
Now you may have noticed a very stark picture comparing the old life with the new life in this scripture. In the old life Paul describes lying words, angry words and foul words. There was bitterness, shouting and slander (which is making a false and damaging statement about someone). In fact, Paul goes so far as to call this type of behavior evil. Some Bible translations of verse 29 use “evil words” instead of “foul words.” And would you agree that there is evil in using these types of words – would you agree that the love of God is surely not in lying, angry, bitter, shouting, foul words?
Now, a couple of the Greek words that Paul uses in today’s scripture really help us to understand exactly what he was saying. In verse 29 the Greek word for foul talk or evil talk is sapros – this is the same word that is used to describe food that has rotted. My husband, Ed, told me that while I was gone, he had put a used meat tray in the trash, and it started smelling so horrible that he had to take the trash can out of the garage. Do you know what I’m talking about – those yellow foam trays that you buy meat in. And has this ever happened to you that the juice from the meat gets down into them and when you throw it away it rots and gets putrid. Imagine that horrible putrid smell being used as a description of the foulness of our words.
And in verse 31, the Greek word Paul uses for bitterness is pikria – this is a word that is used for bitter or poisonous food or drink. So Paul is saying these words can be poisonous, rotten and putrid words. And isn’t that an interesting meaning because don’t bitter, angry and foul words poison our relationships – don’t they cause our relationships to rot and decay?
And so, Paul says ….. put those kinds of life-destroying, and relationship-destroying words aside. Paul encourages the church to instead use words that build others up and that are worthy of our calling. He says – get rid of lying. Don’t let the sun set on your anger. Don’t let any foul words come out of your mouth. Only say what is helpful in building up the community. Put aside all those bad attitudes and destructive words, and Paul says be kind, compassionate and forgiving to each other because God has forgiven you through the death of Christ on the cross.
But really these ideas can almost be a “so what” moment for me. Because we know all this. We know these things are true. We know words hurt – we learned it when we were young children, didn’t we? But the problem that comes for us in reading this scripture is in the doing it. The problem comes when we are out there in the world faced with a situation where the anger within us wells up – or when our bitterness gets the best of us. Or maybe, we just want to gossip or cut someone else down. It is in the nitty gritty stressful situations of our lives that we forget to imitate Christ with our words. And I think that part of our problem in controlling our tongues is in recognizing and admitting that the words that come out of our mouths directly reflect what is going on inside of us. Now, I am no counselor, therapist or psychologist. But doesn’t it seem that when we experience hurt, bitterness, pain and fear, that can burst out of us in words that are destructive? And don’t you think that changing our speech really involves letting God change the inner sources from which our speech springs? Do you remember what Psalm 19 :14 says? This is one that we are memorizing – we want the words of our mouths AND the meditations of our hearts to be pleasing to God.
Let the words of my mouth
and the meditations of my heart
be pleasing to you,
LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
If we want to be people who build up with our words instead of tearing down, we must align our hearts with God. Paul is really calling on the church to change their inner natures. Scholar N.T. Wright said it this way:
Living as a Christian demands that we grow up in our thinking: you have to learn to identify your own moods and behavior patterns to see which ones are going in the right direction and which ones in the wrong direction…we should regard our moods, and the speech which flows from them, as we might a strong but willful horse, which needs to be reminded frequently of the direction we’re supposed to be going in.”
We must deal with our junk or junk is going to come out of us in the form of words that tear others down. The only way I know to deal with my junk is to allow our God of miracles to heal the places where I am broken. God is able to heal our bitterness, our anger, our fear, our jealousy and our unforgiveness. There are many destructive attitudes that fester within us, but when we spend time in God’s presence, we will be healed. We can become new creations in Christ who actually reflect the light of God to the world. But we do have to make an effort to turn toward God. It can’t be done with one hour of worship a week alone, it requires spending a little time daily in the presence of God – in prayer, meditation, reading scripture and spending time with a small group. In a minute, I want to share with you one very specific way you can practice turning toward God every day.
And so, I ask you, how would you feel if you only received kindness, compassion and forgiveness from those in your life? Will you commit to using the same kind of powerful words to build up those you speak to this week? Will you pray that the Holy Spirit might give you words of life and hope?
You know, God may never call us to be the next Billy Graham or Mother Teresa, but every single one of us can live out our faith and show the world the love of Jesus by the words that we speak. Every single one of us can! We can show God’s love by building up every single person that we talk to over the course of our days instead of tearing them down. Just as the Apostle Paul encouraged the Ephesians:
I encourage you to live as people worthy of the call you received from God. Conduct yourselves with all humility, gentleness and patience. Accept each other with love and make an effort to preserve unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties you together. Ephesians 4:1-3
May our words be worthy of the call we have received from God. May our words be a good and pleasing offering to our God. In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Response to the word.
Do not let the sun go down on your anger.
Jealousy chokes the soul.
Bitterness poisons the spirit.
Scheming leads to tears.
Slander breaks our fellowship.
Let not the sun go down on your anger,
But be imitators of God,
and live in love as Christ has loved us.
Go from here with the power of the Holy Spirit to live as people worthy of the call you received from God. Conduct yourselves with all humility, gentleness and patience. Accept each other