Words. To the hearer, words can be as sweet as the finest chocolate, or as bitter as vinegar; they can be a tender caress, or a vicious blow; they can be the manifestation of love, or the explosion of hatred. Words are powerful things. They have the power to raise a person from the rough ground where they are struggling, or to thrust that same person down into the mire of disappointment and despair. A kind word can make a difficult task seem light, a scathing remark thrown out in jest can cause throw a kind of pall over anything.
In the words of Edward Bulwer-Lytton, "The pen is mightier than the sword." True enough, the written word still wields immense might – despite how cheap words are today – but I would venture to say that the spoken word can wield even more. "It's not what you say, it's how you say it." Tone, inflection, expression, all play a role in the spoken word. Words can, and often do, slip from the tongue much faster than they do from the pen (or from the fingers on the keys.) Once they are released, taking them back is tantamount to, after squeezing out the contents of a tube of toothpaste, attempting to get all of the toothpaste back inside. That is why the tongue must be so closely guarded. There is no proofreading or editing once a word has left the mouth.
I was listening to a sermon on the radio this past week, and the speaker asserted that sarcasm should not be a part of a Christian's speech at all. That made me stop for a moment, and consider how often I make sarcastic remarks and replies in everyday conversation. I was sobered and convicted when I realized just how often I do! He was talking of 'cutting words,' and he noted how sarcasm is usually tossed about in jest, and is usually as often taken as such – except when it's not. Like playing with swords, it's all fun and games until someone is injured. More often than not, the blow was never meant to cause harm, but by a split-second's miscalculation, the damage is done. And an immediate apology does not really heal the wound right away.
I can only speak for myself, but I am sure that many, like me, would have to admit that sarcastic words escape from us more often than we would like, and definitely more often than they should. As Christians, our words should be, first of all, glorifying to God. (1. Corinthians 10:31) They should be building up others, (1 Thessalonians 5:11), helping up those who have fallen, biding up old wounds, and strengthening those who are weak, (Isaiah 35:3-4).
Where does sarcasm fit into that mission? Well...it doesn't, really.
If we are not building up others with our words, than what are we doing? If not encouraging, than what? If not edifying? You get the idea. And if we are not building each other up, even within the body of Christ, but rather lacerating each other with our words, whether in jest or not, how are we different from anyone else? And moreover, what message are we sending to non-believers when we do the same to them? Does sarcasm demonstrate the love of God? More often than not, sarcasm is not really a conscious choice, it really is a habit, isn't it? "It just slips out!" C.S. Lewis said that the best way to gain a virtue is to pretend that you already have it. I am going to venture, if I may, to say that similarly, a good way to lose a bad habit, is to pretend that you no longer have it.
So... what advice do we have go about reversing the trend of cutting words in our lives? "...Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry." (James 1:19) I want to specifically draw your attention to that second one. Being slow to speak, keeping a tight rein on our tongues, allows us to think before we blurt out something hurtful or inappropriate. A quick response especially to someone else's cutting words, is never a good idea. It is wise to hold yourself in check, to consider your thoughts. (Proverbs 29:11)
So I'd like to encourage you this week, (and beyond!) Let's, as the body of Christ, strive to speak in such a way that every word that comes from our mouths comes with the purpose of building up our brothers and sisters in Christ, and building a monument to the love and grace of our Father before those who are not of His flock. (Matthew 5:16) Let's seek to wield a trowel and mortar, erecting foundations and repairing cracks – not a wrecking ball. While I can't guarantee that you will never be taken the wrong way, or that no one will ever be offended by your words, (because there will always be those who simply do not wish to hear what is right. (Zechariah 7:11)) However, even if this is the case, if you are taking every thought captive for Christ, and exercising the grace given you by God for the control of the tongue, you will be doing your part of the instruction to live at peace with others, as far it as depends on you. (Romans 12:18, 1 Corinthians 13:11)
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Colossians 4:6)
Caleb is a homeschool graduate ('09), and resides in Rootstown, OH with his family. Since September of last year, he is employed full-time at Sunnybrook Pressed Concrete, and is attending Stark State College of Technology part-time, taking classes toward a video production major. His interests include reading, writing fiction, art, movies, music ( mainly film soundtracks, Celtic, Russian folk, CCM, and a bit of country,) English and Scottish country dancing, and sewing. The Lord's hand has been very evident in his life thus far, and he is excited to see what comes next! Non Nobis Domine, Sed Nomini Tuo Da Gloriam.