Walnut Street Church of Christ

Manifesting the fruit of the spirit, proclaiming Christ to the lost and serving mankind to the glory of God.

Author: Larry Snow

Words Matter

Even the ancient philosophers knew the importance of words. One wrote, “words become actions, which eventually become our destiny”. In first century Greece, historian and essayist Plutarch declared that a speaker’s state of mind, character, and disposition are exposed through their words. Napoleon Hill, the 20th century author of personal success literature, asserts that words plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another. Rudyard Kipling is quoted as having said that words “are the most powerful drug used by mankind.” Throughout the ages the wisest of the wise have noted that words are potent and should be chosen with care.

Regardless of how one defines success, it is the words that are used that will help or hurt the chances of making the vision a reality. There are words and phrases that can damage self-image, mar a reputation, and jeopardize success.

That’s a summary of the conventional wisdom of our day. Here is some ancient wisdom from God’s Word:

Proverbs 21:23—“Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles.”

Proverbs 17:27—“He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit.”

Ecclesiastes 3:7—“A time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;”

Proverbs 23:7—“For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.”

James 3:2-5—“For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. Look also at ships; although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boast great things.”

Someone once said, “A word to the wise is sufficient.” Words matter.

If Only

“If only…” They are just two words in the English language. Separately, they are used to communicate a variety of sentiments. Together they almost always take us to a place of remorse.

“If” can mean a possibility, condition, or stipulation. “Only” can mean at the very least, or without anyone or anything else, alone.

If only:

I had known…
You knew what you had done… You knew how I really felt…
I could reach you…
You could feel the pain…

Possibility missed, opportunity lost, communication broken. When a friend starts a sentence with the words “If only” you know to brace for what comes next.

It’s the sentiment one hears in Martha’s voice when she confronts Jesus upon His arrival after the death of Lazarus. She said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:21) Martha is having one of those “if only” moments in life. In our humanity we understand her. In His divinity we gain perspective. Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” (John 11:23) And he did.

Our “If only” expressions of frustration are temporary. Just like Lazarus’ four days in the tomb. There is always a bigger picture than the snap shot of “if only.”