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Idle Words

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

As a child, I would hear the phrase – sticks and stone may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. Conceptually, children were being taught that it’s important to look past what is said to us… and about us. Words should not be able to affect our emotions, and yet we know this to be untrue. Words are powerful. They declare emotions, tell stories, change opinions, impact moods, rally confidence, inspire greatness, and spread fear.

How often do we consider the power of our own words? Should we ever think to minimize our actions, the scriptures remind us that: Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! (James 3:5).  The flames of our words are contagious. What might seem like a little rumor, a bit of conjecture or a small insult, can spark destructive fires that drive people to anger, isolation, and depression. Many terrible situations could have been prevented had we thought more closely about what we had to say.

The Price of Our Idle Words

In Numbers 12, the scriptures tell us of a story regarding Miriam, Aaron, and Moses. The chapter starts off with Miriam and Aaron complaining against Moses. First, they expressed their disdain for Moses choosing an Ethiopian wife. Next, they compared their role and importance to God – to Moses. They asked in verse 2 – “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also?” Upon hearing this, God calls Miriam, Aaron, and Moses to gather as He came down in a pillar of cloud. God then chastises Aaron and Miriam by saying:

“Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream. Not so with My servant Moses; He is faithful in all My house. I speak with him face to face, Even plainly, and not in dark sayings; And he sees the form of the Lord., Why then were you not afraid To speak against My servant Moses?”

Numbers 12:6-8

As God departed, Aaron looked towards Miriam, and was surprised to see that she had been struck with leprosy. God’s chastisement was swift. I believe God knew the potential impact of Miriam’s and Aaron’s murmurings on the Israelites, and decided the cost was just too high to not address the situation immediately. We should also acknowledge God’s omnipresence in that He hears us and sees us at all times – not just in prayer. He is reviewing the way we treat others, even when we think no one else is looking.

God also is willing to stand up for those who have aligned themselves with Him. We should find comfort in knowing that Aaron and Miriam’s complaints weren’t for Moses to handle. Vengeance belongs to God, and in due time, He will deliver (Romans 12:19). Aaron, upon seeing Miriam, pleaded with Moses for their punishment to be lifted; in turn, Moses pleaded with God. God responded by telling Moses that Miriam would be shut out of the camp for seven days, and then she would be allowed to return. She had to feel the effects of her actions, even in the midst of God’s mercy.

God’s Standard Never Changes

We are accountable for our actions, and that includes what we say. During the early church era after Jesus departed, we learn about a husband and wife named Ananias and Sapphira. They individually lied to Peter about the amount of money for which they sold one of their possessions. Ananias and Sapphira wanted to keep back some of the money for themselves and donate the rest to the church; they did not, however, want the church to know what they were doing. Immediately, after each spouse lied to Peter, they fell down and died. (Acts 5:1-11)

In James 3:10-12, the scriptures read:

Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.

We cannot serve two masters. (Matthew 6:24) As we grow in our spiritual walks, we cannot say that we are of God, and then make the choice to be careless with what we say. The two cannot coexist.

Aligning Our Words with Christ

Unfortunately, in our society, information is its own currency, and sometimes it feels good to spend it, no matter how irresponsible the choice is. Yet if we say that we are of God, our actions must show it. We have to be mindful to not spread conjecture as fact. We must be careful as to how we speak of others and judge their characters. And when someone confides in us, we should exercise self-control and selflessness as to not share with others the secrets we promised to keep only in our hearts.

Idle thoughts create idle words that spread like wildfires, engulfing whatever they encounter in flames. Let’s make sure we aren’t creating those fires. Instead, let’s use our words to put them out. Love, hope, and joy – they can all be contagious too. So, let’s think more before we speak, and make sure that the Spirit of God is residing in our actions. We all have the chance to impart good in this world if we are only willing to try.

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