Powerful Words - Proverbs 12
Click here for the Word Doc..
Click here for the PDF..
Powerful Words – 06.12.2022
Once there was a man working in the produce department at a grocery store – like Beuches. A lady came up and asked if she could by a half a head of lettuce. He replied, “Half a head? Wait, are you serious? God grows these in whole heads and that’s how we sell them!” But she was persistent, she said, “you mean that after all the years I’ve shopped here, you won’t sell me half-a-head of lettuce?” The man sighed, “Look, if you like I’ll ask the manager.” She indicated that she would appreciate that, so the young man marched up to the front of the store. He found his manager and said, “you won’t believe this, but there’s a lame-braided idiot of a lady back there who wants to know if she can buy half-a-head of lettuce.” While he was talking he noticed the manager gesturing like this [do the “cut it out” motion]. He turned around to see the lady standing right behind him, obviously having followed him to the front of the store. The man quickly said, “and this wonderful lovely smart nice lady was wondering if she could buy the OTHER half.”
Later in the day the manager cornered the young man and said, “you know – that was the finest example of thinking on your feet I’ve ever seen! That was very clever what you did with your words there – where did you learn that? The young man responded, “Oh, I grew up in Grand Rapids. And if you know anything about Grand Rapids you know we’re known for quick wit, great hockey teams and ugly women.” The manager’s face flushed and he sputtered, “my wife is from Grand Rapids.” To which the young man quickly responded, “Oh, well which hockey team did she play for?”
Today is part four of our series called 1 coin, 2 sides. We have been reading through the book of Proverbs to see how it can help us grow in our faith. Wisdom literature can be tricky to read – it’s not like stories or legal codes, it’s its own unique thing. First we saw that the line between good and evil is not between us, the good guys, and them, the bad guys – but rather it’s a self reflection, a line that runs right down the middle of our heart. Then we saw how wise people welcome correction and if we approach people we love with loyalty and kindness – we can love them even when we disagree with them. And then last week we saw that there is meaning and purpose in our lives when we work hard as God designed us to do. The book of proverbs is very practical, there’s a lot of advice on how to live our lives after we meet Jesus. And now today, we’re going to dive into chapter 12, and take a look at the power of our words.
Now before we get into the text, I have two objections I need to deal with. Last week we talked about the importance of hard work, and the evils of laziness. God designed us to work hard, to fill our lives with good things that we can be proud of doing – it’s good for us on like five different levels. Hard work is a very good thing. BUT Americans tend to take that idea to the extreme. Hard work IS a good thing, but it is not the ONLY good thing. I remember a few years back, I had a friend who was living right at the poverty line. Married with two kids to care for, and so I challenged him. I told him, “you’re a talented young man, you have a job you are good at – make sure you’re getting the hours you need to get those bills paid.” Fast forward six months and his wife came to me and said, “Our finances have never been so strong, we have a savings account for the first time. The financial stress is gone. But I haven’t seen my husband in three days. He works all the time, he’s a stranger to his children and I have no support.” So I talked to my friend again and I asked him, “what’s going on?” He said, “We’ve finally got some stability, and I don’t ever want to go back.” And I said, “Oh, I get that. I’m so glad for your success – but if you make work your only thing, you’re going to lose everything else. Your children, your wife needs you.” And then I taught him about this crazy idea that God had, we call it the sabbath. God created us and designed us for hard work, but he also commanded us to rest. To take a full day, weekly, to focus on HIM and turn off the rest of the world. I told him, “You’ve got to protect your day off. Spend that time at home with your family and with God.” I haven’t talked to them in a while, but last I heard they are thriving – with a new baby and everything. Hard work IS good, but so is rest. It is not lazy to rest as we are commanded by God to rest. There is a rhythm God designed us for. Hard work, and then take a day off to rest from your labor. That’s the first objection, rest is not lazy – it’s actually how you create a strong relationship with God and good home life too.
Second response – I want to make sure it’s clear that hard work has nothing to do with your physical ability. Hard work is connected to the things we do that give our lives meaning and purpose. I think in our minds when I say the words “hard work” we conjure up images of young people lifting things, farmers out in the fields, construction workers using giant machines. But sometimes hard work is sitting silently in a hospital room with a friend. Or calling someone on the phone and letting them vent to you. Sometimes hard work is physical, but a lot of times it’s not. And I think that’s a challenge of growing older. As our physical abilities change a lot of people struggle and start to believe the lie that they are somehow less valuable than they used to be. But I want you to listen carefully, If God allowed you to wake up this morning – there can be meaning and purpose to the things you do in your life. You are just as beloved of God and valuable to the work of the kingdom as you ever were – no matter your physical abilities. So now let’s see what proverbs has to say about the hard work we can do with our words.
We start out in the middle of the chapter, verse 14 – where it says, [read it]. Now this is a simple truth – wise words bring benefits, and I think we all know this. Wisdom is a good thing. Wisdom is better than foolishness. I don’t think there’s anybody out there who wakes up and says, “You know, I really hope I act like fool today.” Nobody wakes up and WANTS to be a moron. We want to be wise, we know it’s what is best for us. We WANT to be wise, and our words are one of the best ways to work on that. Now what we’re going to see is that there are three pieces to using your words in a wise way. Posture, Content and Goal. [read v.15-16]. The first thing we have to do in order to use our words wisely, is get our posture right. Wise people listen. Wise people stay calm when insulted. Verse 23 tells us, [read it]. I don’t want to offend anybody, but it seems to me that the book of proverbs is trying to tell us that the smartest way to talk is to shut up. You know I heard a phrase recently that said, “God gave us ears that don’t close and a mouth that does – and that should tell us a lot.” Wise people listen intentionally. You’re not just sitting there waiting for their lips to stop moving so you can have your turn, you are actively hearing what they are saying. It’s simple, but I’m not going to lie to you – it’s NOT easy. We have to be calm, listen intentionally and not make a show of our wisdom. That’s the posture to speak wise words.
Then we need to get the content right. Verse 17 tells us, [read it]. Verse 19 says, [read 19-20]. Verse 22, [read it]. Scattered throughout this entire passage are all these verses emphasizing that wise words involve telling the truth. It feels a little silly for me to emphasize this, because it seems so obvious – but we can’t take anything for granted in this crazy mixed up world of ours. Christians have to tell the truth. Honesty is not just the best policy, it’s the only policy for us. The content of your words, whatever they are, it must be true.
There’s an old story about Dr. Clarence Baas, professor emeritus at Bethel Theological Seminary. One time he was preaching in a church out in Los Angeles. He thought he preached a pretty good sermon, and he stood at the door greeting people as they left the sanctuary. And all the remarks about his sermon were complimentary. Every hand he shook came with a “great job” comment. Until a little old man commented, “you preached too long.” Dr. Baas wasn’t fazed by the remark, especially in light of the many positive comments. But then the little old man came through the line again. He had looped back around and this time he said, “You weren’t loud enough. I couldn’t hear you.” Dr. Baas thought it was strange that the man had come through the line twice, but then he came back for a third time. This time he said, “Ack, you used too many big words.” Dr. Baas was very confused – everybody else had said good, positive things about the sermon, but this one guy kept coming back with bad reviews. So he sought out a church leader who was standing nearby and asked him, “Do you see that little old man over there? Who is that guy?” And the deacon replied, “Oh, don’t pay any attention to him, all he ever does is go around and repeat everything he hears.”
To be wise with our words - first, we get our posture right, a posture of listening. Then we have to get our content right – we must tell the truth. Then, the last step to using words wisely is to get the GOAL right. Verse 18 says, [read it]. Wise words bring HEALING. But hear that first part again, “some people make cutting remarks.” Now I don’t want to put anybody on the spot, so I just want you to raise your hand on the inside. Some people make cutting remarks. Do any of us fit into that category? I know I do. Some people make cutting remarks, but wise words bring healing. And notice how it doesn’t have anything to do with the words you use. Some folks can say, “Oh I’ve never uttered a curse word in my entire life” but that’s not what this is about. It doesn’t matter which words you use, what matters is – do your words cut? Or do your words heal? And I think there’s a moment in a lot of conversations where we have a choice. A lot of times we have an opportunity when we are talking and we can either escalate or de-escalate the conversation. And it comes down to our goal. Is your goal to cut – to hurt them, to get them back? Or is your goal to bring healing? Verse 25, [read it]. So not just healing, but also encouragement is our goal for giving wise words. I think a lot of people say they want to use wise words” – but what they mean is “I want to sound smart and tell people what to do.” But if you actually read your bible, that’s NOT what wise words are! Those aren’t wise words, those are self-righteous words. Truly wise words come from a posture of listening, are rooted in the truth and have healing and encouragement as their goal.
The good news for us this morning is that God has given you a voice. He created you, he made you, he loves you – and he gave you this amazing tool to use in your life. Now, a little bit – sometimes – it feels like God giving us a voice would be like me giving my 2 year old an open sharpie and saying, “I trust you with this.” In so many ways we have gone SO WRONG with our words. Which is why it’s so important to pay attention to what God’s word says about how we use that voice. God gave you a voice, and so our job is to use that voice to encourage the people around you.
Last week I got on all your cases about how hard work is SO important, but here’s the thing – this is hard work you can do with just your voice! Physical ability and age gives no limits to the voice that God has given you. And in this time of technology, you can even do it by typing – you don’t even need to talk and you can still use your voice to encourage the people around you. I want to challenge all of you – if you’re on social media, get out there this afternoon and post 5 positive, encouraging comments on your friends pages. Christians should be a well spring of encouragement to the people around them. There’s an old story about an elderly widow who was restricted in her activities – but she was eager to serve Christ. She prayed about it for a while, and then realized that she could bring blessings to others by playing the piano. So she placed a small ad in the local newspaper that said, “Pianist will play hymns by phone daily for those who are sick and despondent – the service is free.” The notice included the number to dial. When people called, she would ask them, “What hymn would you like to hear?” Within a few months her playing had brought cheer to hundreds of people. After hearing the songs, many of them freely poured out their hearts to her and she was able to help and encourage them.
Wise words bring healing – so USE the voice God has given you to encourage the people around you. There’s three steps: set your posture, content and goal. First, set your posture. It’s very easy: listen more than you speak. A wise person listens well. The first step and the best way to have wise words is shut up and listen. And I’m just going to say this – these are words I need to hear too. As a professional talker – I would be so much more wise if I talked less and listened more. Set your posture. Step 2, Content: very simple, tell the truth. You do no favors when you bend the truth to make people feel better. Let honesty and truth telling be at the core of everything you do. Third and final step, have the right goal. Proverbs says that wise words bring HEALING. The focus is on encouragement and peace. Make sure your words ENCOURAGE people. If that’s not your goal – do a gut check. Rethink it – because wise words bring healing.
Marion Gilbert tells this story about a time when she was getting the morning paper. And she opened the door and was surprised to see a strange little dog with her paper in his mouth. Delighted with the unexpected “delivery service” she encouraged the little pup by feeding him some treats. The following morning she was horrified to see the same dog sitting in front of her door, wagging his tail, surrounded by eight newspapers. She had spend the rest of that morning returning the papers to their owners. When you spend time encouraging the people around you, don’t be surprised if people start stepping up and growing and thriving at whatever their doing because of the encouragement you gave them. Like a rain cloud in the desert can bring new life to the parched land – encouraging words can bring revival to the people around you.
The words you use have power. God has given you this incredible gift to use in the world. God has give you a voice – so let’s commit to using it wisely. We set out posture – a posture of calm listening. We use the right content – we always tell the truth, and finally – we set our eyes on the right goal: a goal to bring healing and encouragement with our words. You put all these pieces together and you will be an incredible force for good in the world. You can bring the light of Jesus Christ and the good news that he offers to everyone living in darkness around you. And so I’ll leave you with this. May you remember that the God who created you and loves you has given you a voice. May you take the power of that voice as a responsibility to use for good in the world, and finally – May you use the voice God has given you to encourage the people around you and bring healing into their lives. Amen.