February 21, 2012

Only God can weigh words

The New Testament says that the tongue is hard to control. I’ve said that talk is cheap, that sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. Only the first statement is true. Talk is a wild thing. It also can be very costly and hurtful, even ruin lives.
I just finished reading for the second time, a book called “The Weight of Your Words: Measuring the Impact of What You Say” by Joseph M. Stowell. The first time through, I was convicted of my lack of tongue-control and devastated by failures to talk as I ought and to shut up when I should. The second reading impressed me with how much the instruction the Bible offers about talking in a godly way. 

I’m also realizing how rules for what to say and when to say it are not as important as attitude. Besides, even with a good attitude, how can I decide that my words are the right words? Is it about good intentions? Or is it about the results that come from them?

Sunday evening we were praying with others in our church. One of my prayers just seemed to come out right. Whether God used that prayer to bless others or not, I began thinking about how good those words were. My heart flared with pride, not a good result. Yesterday, those thoughts kept returning, so no wonder these are God’s words to me today.
Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. (1 Samuel 2:3)
This rebuke about my pride are from a prayer. A woman named Hannah had been barren. She prayed for a child and Samuel was born. In her prayer, she promised her future son to the Lord in service. When he was old enough, he was given to the Lord as she promised. Then she prayed again, worshipping God because He blessed her and released her from the mockery of those who provoked her about her barrenness. She spoke also of the holiness of God and rejoiced in His salvation.

This woman knew that talk was never cheap. The words of others had devastated her. But instead of fighting back, she took her concern to the Lord and He heard her prayer. Now she could say that God knew all about it. He weighed the actions of her enemies and found them wanting. 

Very often the Bible speaks of God weighing our words. In doing so, He judges righteously. That is, two people might say the same thing, but one will be commended and the other condemned. God can see the attitudes behind words and actions and knows when someone speaks in pride. Even if we cannot detect arrogance in ourselves or others, He knows what is at the root of our words.
If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work? (Proverbs 24:12)
Besides knowing and weighing words, God also repays accordingly. This “reward” is based on the outcome of what is said or done.
I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds. (Jeremiah 17:10)
That is, our words produce something. As Hannah realized, the arrogance and proud words of the one who mocked her produced pain and sorrow. Any attitude of the heart has ramifications beyond the person who has the attitude. If we speak in kindness or in pride, it will affect those who hear us.

Stowell’s book also spoke of what is in the heart. We say things that can heal or hurt, build up or tear down. And God knows those motives. He also sees the results. Can I know that? Even if I say something in sincerity, who am I to decide whether my words are helpful or harmful? That also is arrogance.
All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit. Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. (Proverbs 16:2–3)
My ways might be pure in my own eyes, but the Lord evaluates. He knows where they are coming from. I need to commit all that I do to Him and let Him take care of the results. It might look good to me, but I really have no clue about the value of anything I say or do. 

Lord, forgive my arrogance. I do not know whether my words blessed those around me or not. Even if they were spoken with a right attitude, how can I know the weight of them? You are the God of knowledge and can see the fruit of things. I am not and cannot. 

Praise You for knowing all things and that You weigh all things in righteousness. I’m humbled by Your invitation to commit what I do (and say) to You. May I be more faithful in being silent and letting You determine what results will come from my words and deeds.

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