My father and grandfather loved aphorisms—short, memorable statements of wisdom. I not only inherited their love for them but became personally fascinated by the development and use of aphorisms. My fascination grew in response to my pastoral call. How can I say something with an economy of words that is memorable and precise and that communicates biblical wisdom? It is challenging and rewarding in conversation and preaching.
In Colossians 4:6, the Apostle Paul writes, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Much of this text is captured in this aphorism: “Say what you mean, mean what you say, and never be mean when you say it.”
Proverbs 25:11 tells us, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up.”
Communication is possible because we are made in the image of God, but it is never neutral. Perhaps you have heard this misleading aphorism: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” The reality is that it doesn’t take long for the wounds from sticks and stones to heal, but hurtful words hurt deeply and linger interminably.