Words have power. They can build up or tear down. They can ignite anger or turn away wrath. They can inspire or discourage. They can offer hope or generate fear. Proverbs 12:18 provides a vivid picture: “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
Just as a sword pierces the flesh, words can pierce our souls. Yet, they can also bring healing and comfort. How can we use our words wisely? How can we be people who spur one another on in love and good deeds? Scripture points us to four specific ways we can build up one another with our words.
One primary way is by encouraging one another in our labors. Don’t hold back in praising others when you witness their ministry. When you see someone setting up chairs, cleaning up after a social, or serving in the nursery, tell them thank you. If you enjoyed the hospitality someone provided, send them a note. If your pastor preached a sermon that spurred you on, encourage him by sharing the truth that spoke to you. Hebrews 10:24 says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” Our words begin in our thoughts, so take the time to consider who in your church might need your words of encouragement today.
Paul tells us of another way to use our words wisely when he tells us to “reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2). At times, these words may cause pain or discomfort. However, a loving rebuke is different from rash words that pierce. These are the faithful wounds of a friend, considerate and thoughtful, hoping for the best in another. We serve one another as we exhort one another in love.
Paul also instructs us to use our words to give thanks in song. He writes,
Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Eph. 5:18–20)
Thanksgiving is a corporate affair. As we join with one another in singing together, our hearts overflow with praise.
Last, we can use our words to pray faithfully for one another. James exhorts, “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5:16). We have the opportunity to actively participate in helping one another as we cry out to God on another’s behalf. What an amazing privilege and opportunity.
It’s easy to waste our words with gossip, grumbling, complaining, and unkindness. By the Spirit’s work we are invited to offer healing as we encourage, exhort, rebuke, teach, sing, and pray for one another. May our words be thoughtful and wise, full of kindness and compassion, and may they glorify our God, who by His word spoke all of creation into existence.