December 3, 2020

A Word about Words

The First Mourning, Bouguereau

By Chaplain Mike

Then [Job’s friends] sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great.

• Job 2:11-13

• • •

My dear friend,

Christians believe in words and their power. And well we should. Our sacred book begins with God speaking and bringing order to a chaotic world. The Gospel begins with the Word made flesh. Our very faith comes through hearing the word of God. Our Lord and Savior, Jesus, went through all the land, teaching and proclaiming God’s word about the kingdom of heaven. Great is the company of those who bring the word!

But we often forget the word of wisdom:

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver” (Proverbs 25:11).

Fitly spoken, he said.

  • Spoken at the right time.
  • Spoken when appropriate.
  • Spoken after listening.
  • Spoken after having given thought to what I’m about to say.
  • Spoken with proper understanding of the circumstances.
  • Spoken with sensitivity to the other’s feelings and concerns.
  • Spoken after listening.
  • Spoken after having checked my motives.
  • Spoken with due humility, realizing I may not know the whole story.
  • Spoken in conjunction with a willingness to do something to help.
  • Spoken in as few words as possible.
  • Spoken with carefully chosen words.
  • Spoken prayerfully.
  • Spoken after listening.

Woe is me! For I am a man of unclean lips. I am utterly dependent on God’s Word to cleanse me. Only through grace and the Spirit can I give a word fitly spoken.

Until then, shh. . . quiet.

Job’s friends did more good in one verse of silence than in thirty-five chapters of words.

That’s something to think about today.

In silence.

Set a guard over my mouth, LORD;
keep watch over the door of my lips.

• Psalm 141:3


  1. This has been something that’s been on my mind over the last few weeks as I’ve realised that for all my talk of “I do listen to others”, a fair amount of the time I just don’t shut up long enough to actually listen.

    Thanks for the reflection Chaplain Mike. Amen. Amen.

  2. “Then [Job’s friends] sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great.”

    Wow, God may have given those guys some grief for talking about Him as if they knew Him when they only knew ABOUT him, but you have to give the men credit for the time they spent with Job in his misery. Thanks for posting this passage, Chaplain Mike.

  3. A great lesson and reminder! As a pastor, I have been wrestling with how many words and how much stuff we “add” to the message of scripture when we teach. Sure, we need an environment where the fellowship can come together to recant the teachings of the Apostles, I even like the creativity of “how” to bring the message, but sometimes teachers can go over the top in adding to the simple message in The Book. I want to be a deliverer of The Word without standing it’s way…. This is a great list (filter) by which to quickly go over your mind before speaking, writing or teaching.

    thank you, I needed this one today!

  4. I was just talking about this very thing with my mom yesterday!!! How apropos!

    She, raised in a strict Baptist Fundamental Preachers home, being the good girl who did what she was told.

    Me, raised in a strict Baptist Fundamental Preachers home, being the rebel girl who questioned anything I was told.

    I said to her, “Why do Christians do such a good job of “kicking a man when he’s down”? With a Bible in one hand and a razor blade on their boot tip. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could learn to sit down in the mess of someone’s life and not say anything for awhile?”

    To which she replied, “This is good for me to hear. I, no doubt, have been that person who “kicked a man when he was down”. I was brought up to think that all a person needed was the Word of God. Nothing else.”

    Life begins to make more sense when we can see where other people have come from.

    I love open conversation. Understanding where people are coming from.

  5. I haven’t seen that particular painting before, Mike. It is so apt.

  6. Words can hurt. And often do….In my experience I learned that Christians can be the coldest, harshest, gossipy, and excpetionaly cruel. Here’s how you can learn this the hard way…

    1. Confess a sin issue to a Pastor/Ministry figure you trust…
    2. Be open about doubt and your uncertainity about God’s will….
    3. Look at passages from the Bible which many are so set upon from a different perspective….
    4. When your life is experiencing difficulty “listen” to what mature Christians will tell can be disturbing…

    I can take this post by CM in a lot of different directions…let me tell you one such story. I took a job in Washington, D.C. and moved there from the upper midwest. I was led to believe this was God’s will and encouraged by friends, Crusade staff, and church staff. During the hiring process I used my Crusade staff as a reference. Good guy I thought, and someone who could be trusted. It later turned out to be a big mistake. When I used him as a reference he brought out and played up sin struggles when he was contacted as a reference. I was stunned when he did this action. He later told me that he thought it would be a “good idea if I lost my job to teach me a lesson about the consequences of sin…” His words affected me career, and not one that I would have taken under any other circumstances. I took this job that I am in because I was led to believe that I was following God’s will. Thus if true his actions effectively undermined “God’s will” when he undermined my job.

    But here was the other thing I learned in the process.

    1. My Crsuade staff member never took the time to listen or find out how I was dealing with lust. Never heard the stories of how hard it was to get invovled in the megachurches that exist.
    2. He never found out or bothered to learn about my accountability partner and how he lied his way into a double life while I was left with a burned relationship after 8 years.
    3. He never could admit or be willing to listen and consider that his words had unintended consequences. He was so certasin that his words were “right…”

    There are many stories…sad to say my expereinces taught me that Christians are the most harsh when it comes to words. Many I learned also take the hard line and choose to stone that person. Why? I don’t know…is it because they feel more “holy or pure” to dress down and scald someone on an issue? Is it becuase they enjoy the power and control over their words? I don’t know….

    There were many things that taught me to run…like a bat out of hell away from Christianity and Christians. A few weeks ago I watched an internet service online from a church on the west coast. I felt much safer knowing I was 2,000 miles away and just being an annonymous person there. Maybe I’ll do that again one day. But Christians can be exceptionaly harsh in their words.

    Also…I have to confess when I was a “fundgelical’ I was guilty as well. I had a friend who got his girlfriend pregnant. I was harsh with him on the phone. I remember him saying to me…”Eagle don’t you think I know what I did was wrong and how difficult it is to live with this mistake? I don’t need condemnation…I need love and help.” Those words fell on my deaf ears. He ran from me and the community and changed his phone number and email. I had no way of contacting him. I realized what an asshole I was when I was a “fundegelical” and wish I could take back every word I said. It was after I exited this culture when I realized how harmful words can be…. (sigh….) 🙁

    But the question I have is why are Christians so harsh?

    • Francis de Sales in his book On the Devout Life says our tongues should be thought of as surgeons’ scalpels. When speaking, Christians should be slow and careful and not “cut” more than is necessary. Unfortunately, too often, our tongues are like machetes slashing wildly without any thought about what damage is being done.

    • I think this is going to be a problem if the small groups thing going on in the Evangelical community continues to spread and morph into a confessional type activity. The benefit of Catholic confession is that the priest takes his secrecy considerations seriously and so does the entire institutional Church.

    • Eagle, to answer your question of why Christians are so harsh, maybe you could go back into that moment when you yourself were being so harsh with that man who got his girlfriend pregnant.

      Why were you harsh?

      Why did his comment of needing love and help fall on deaf ears?

      Maybe…..just maybe God wanted you to leave the culture you were in, so He could show you some Truth. It wouldn’t be the first time it happened. And it most certainly won’t be the last!

      • Rebekah-

        I wasn’t thinking. That was my fault, and like many “fundegelicals” I was legalisitc. i didn’t think of some of this until later. It dawned on me as I treid to contact him and I saw what lengths he went to to avoid the church community. I wish I could change it but I don’t know how to contact him. He could contact me if he wants to…but I doubt that will happen.

  7. So, what’s with all the comments? :). Good post. I miss Michael, but you all are doing a great job continuing his lagacy.

  8. And all God’s people said, Amen. Thank God for Christians who head this wisdom. And may God take care of all the rest.

  9. “Job’s friends did more good in one verse of silence than in thirty-five chapters of words.”

    And that is an excellent punctuation to a great article. Thank you, Mike.


  10. This resonates with me. The last few years I have become more and more convinced of the need for silence, both spoken and written. It seems with the advent of the internet, people can share their opinions about anything 24/7. And that has led to saying many things anonymously that they would never dare say to someone’s face. I grow dismayed seeing commentors on blogs tear into strangers over a difference of opinion, no matter whether the subject is important or trivial.

    But while I do a decent job censoring my own opinions online, I still have much work to do in the “real” world. I am often guilty of misusing words in a variety of ways to justify myself, tear down someone else, or “vent” anger. If only I thought as much about my verbal words as I do my written ones.

  11. Charles Fines says

    I have consciously been trying to develop the habit of answering the phone “in the name of Jesus.” The technique is as simple as mentally speaking that name when I hear the phone ring, just like Pavlov’s dog, and it has the effect of shifting my brain waves perceptually in a way that I think could be measured with an electroencephalograph. If I had to describe to someone what I consider the ultimate goal of this, I would point to the excellent list posted above by Chaplain Mike. I often don’t get very far down the list before getting caught by old habits but I hope at least I am no longer answering the phone with my tone of voice saying, “Why are you bothering me?” That seems like a good start and proof to me of the power in the name of Jesus.

  12. James 1:19 “…quick to listen, slow to speak…” This relates quite well with Psalm 46 – be still. I think in most cases we don’t learn to listen until life has beaten the breath out of us. One of the great benefits of suffering is empathy and quietness of spirit.

  13. Thank you ChrisS ~ having just had to make a major change at my workplace (and losing pay) in order to remove myself from constant “psychological battering” by a co-worker, I am more aware of the damage words can do than ever. Words cut, discourage and beat down OR they lift up and encourage. No wonder the Scriptures have so much to say about speaking. I have a plaque in my kitchen that says, “Let us be silent that we may hear the whisper of God” Ralph Waldo Emerson.