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"Words Matter" Devotional

February 17, 2023

Devotional Presented by Elder Karen Lee at the January 2023 Session Meeting

This month’s devotional speaks to conflicts, the dangers of judging others, and the importance of encouraging and building up others through our words. Often, when faced with conflict or differences of opinion, it is very easy to move from “making judgments” to “passing judgment.” It’s a slippery slope. We all make judgments every day – we weigh information, we make decisions, we determine what we think is right and what is wrong. But “passing judgment,” judging another person’s behaviors, motives, intentions (sometimes without all the facts in hand) is another thing entirely. Still, it happens, even in the church, and I know I am certainly not immune.

The Bible has plenty to say about the dangers of judging others. Even more often, casual or intentional conversations, emails, texts can serve to escalate conflict. Our words matter, and what we say or write to or about others has the power to encourage and enlighten or to criticize and question. 

Our words lead to emotional responses that can end up affecting our own beliefs and behaviors, as well as those of others, many times with unintended consequences. The Bible has plenty to say about this as well. In fact, the book of Proverbs contains numerous verses concerning the power of the tongue. Consider this example (from the New Living Translation) of Proverbs 18:21–“The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.” Or this from Proverbs 15:28 – “The heart of the godly thinks carefully before speaking; the mouth of the wicked overflows with evil words.” Perhaps Proverbs 21:23 says it best–“Watch your tongue and keep your mouth shut, and you will stay out of trouble.”

The temptation to criticize, judge, and speak less than kind words about another is sometimes difficult to recognize and resist. If I were to make a resolution for myself to help with this particular temptation, here’s what it might include:

  1. Stay off the slippery slope! Strive to make sound judgments without becoming judgmental. Remember the words of Jesus in Matthew, Chapter 7: "Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged."

  2. THINK before speaking. If you aren’t familiar with the THINK acronym, take a walk upstairs to the education wing, where it is stenciled on the wall across from the Confirmation classroom. Before speaking, THINK – Is it True? Is it Helpful? Is it Inspiring? Is it Necessary? Is it Kind? While I may not have the time to consciously go through all those questions before speaking, especially if emotions are running high, better to take the time if I can than to ponder the consequences of not doing so long after.
  3. Whenever possible, seek to encourage others, especially those in my church family. There will always be differences of opinion and there may be conflict. But I hope to avoid (or at least minimize) temptations to criticize and judge.

I would like these words of Paul from Ephesians to be my 2023 words to live by: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” With God’s help, I pray it may be so.

Karen Lee

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