In olden days they used to say that a man’s word was his bond. Nowadays we have junk bonds, which are supposed to be bonds but are not worth much. Unfortunately, most of the words we hear daily could be called junk words because what those in the world around us have to say is generally worthless. Thankfully as followers of Christ our word should still be our bond, and if we say we will do something, we ought to live up to our promises, at least as much as is humanly possible, given that the future is in God’s hands. We know that God’s Word is sure and we can depend on what He has promised us. Solomon tells us, “Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.”
How trustworthy are our words? Can others depend upon us when we give them our word? Our word is one of the few things that we can give and still keep. How dependable are we?
Solomon urges us to be as good as our word. He tells us, “When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; For He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed; better not to vow than to vow and not pay. Do not let your mouth cause your flesh to sin, nor say before the messenger of God that it was an error. Why should God be angry at your excuse and destroy the work of your hands?”
Once we have said something, it is out. We need to be careful and think before we speak. We are responsible for what we say, and the Lord knows everything that comes out of our mouths, as David explains, “For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O LORD, You know it altogether.”
If only we would put our brain in gear before putting our mouth in motion. Solomon gives us the inspired version of this advice when he says, “Do not be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, and you on earth; therefore let your words be few.”
When we were young we had a little chant that went something like this: “Sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Words may not break bones but they sure can break hearts. We need to be careful not only to be truthful, but to be kind. When James talks about the tongue, he asks the question, “Does a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?” He observes, “Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.”
David emphasizes how important it is to watch what we say. He says, “I will guard my ways, lest I sin with my tongue; I will restrain my mouth with a muzzle, while the wicked are before me.” He asks the Lord to help him, “Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.”
When the children of Israel provoked Moses, he grew angry and sinned by saying the wrong thing. The Psalmist recounts, “They angered him also at the waters of strife, so that it went ill with Moses for their sakes: because they provoked his spirit, so that he spake unadvisedly with his lips.” For this mistake Moses was not allowed to lead the children of Israel into the promised land.
We need to take to heart the sobering truth that the Father, who knows everything about us, knows all our words. We don’t want our words to prevent us from entering the kingdom of God. Jesus tells us, “For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” We need to pray as David prayed, Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer. We must guard our mouths, speak only what is clean, and true and kind, and when we give our word, we must be sure to keep it.
Robert J. Lloyd