I have the privilege of teaching English to students with profound hearing loss. With God’s help, I have found teaching and learning strategies that fit their condition. They feel so proud of their progress throughout the school year and I feel extremely blessed to have them in my classroom.
Every day, these wonderful students stand before me, and with their hands or through their writing try to communicate with the outside world. It’s a world of sound that’s unknown to them—a world that sometimes doesn’t treat them with equality and justice.
The ability to speak is one of the most amazing gifts God has given to humankind. At the same time, it involves great responsibilities for those who enjoy the privilege. The Bible warns of the damage it will cause if it is misused. James wrote that “the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.
The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”
“All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”
“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be” (James 3:5–10).
How does a small muscle wield so much power? It’s because of what we do with it. Words can heal, but they can also hurt. Words can bless, but they can also curse. They can start wars, but they can also promote peace.
The wise man Solomon said that “a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).
A couple of months ago, a man who had AIDs stood before me. He appeared to be in his thirties. He told me about his life and how he became infected when he was very young. He did not have many job opportunities, was usually sick and at that moment was experiencing deep mental and physical suffering.
As he spoke, I wondered silently, What can I say, Lord? What does he need to listen to? What are the appropriate words for him?
Then I remembered a very special passage in the Bible, where Jesus’ disciples told a lame beggar about the greatest wealth that a human being can have. “Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk’ ” (Acts 3:6).
And what was that great treasure he was offering? It’s Jesus.
What could I give to this AIDS victim? More than money, he needed hope. We talked a while about the wonderful assurance of forgiveness in Christ. I encouraged him to give his wounded heart and sick body to Jesus. I gave him a few dollars and then he left.
If God has given you the awesome gift of speech, I would like you to consider the following questions:
- What is it that your children are listening to at home?
- What is your spouse hearing from you every day?
- What do your neighbours hear from you?
- Are co-workers blessed when they talk with you?
- Do you destroy with your talk or do you edify with it?
- Are you taking into consideration Colossians 4:6 when talking to others? “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
Every time I see my students trying to communicate with others, I realise how precious the gift of speech is. I can see the frustration on their faces when people don’t understand the thoughts they’re trying to convey, but I can also see the happiness on their faces when they communicate successfully with others.
Are you a sweet fountain of hope when you speak with others or are you just bitter water? Do your words soften the heavy burdens of life or do they add more suffering?
The right or wrong use of the tongue can make the difference in the life of a person. We can use our tongues to glorify God and bless others or we can use them to bring sorrow, pain and tears to others. “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit” (Proverbs 18:21). “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24).
What a great responsibility for those who can make use of the wonderful gift of speech!
Many people around us are waiting for a word of comfort. Words can heal the wounded hearts of those who suffer and cry. On the other hand, some words are more like destructive missiles than “honeycombs.” These words can cut straight to the heart. They leave scars on the soul, which may bleed for years and there is no plastic surgery for the wounds they inflict. They remain in our memories and the result is emotional devastation. Only the precious grace of God can heal us in the long run.
Think deeply before you make use of the precious gift of speech. Think of all the good things you can do with it. It helps also to imagine losing your ability to speak. Imagine not being able to say “I love you” to your dear ones. Picture yourself watching a wonderful sunset or the awesome forms of the mountains and not being able to express with your tongue what you see.
Learning For Good
How can you use the gift of speech positively? The good news is that it’s a skill that isn’t difficult to learn, nor do you need to spend a small fortune to become an expert. Begin by spending time reading the Bible. You will find an endless treasure of divine words that can become a part of your conversation.
Next, take time out of your busy schedule to be in contact with Jesus. Talk to Him. Learn to listen to Him. No-one who gets in touch with Jesus daily can remain the same. His sweet, holy presence in your heart will guide your words.
Finally, feel free to enjoy the blessing when you incorporate the instructions of Ephesians 4:29 into your life: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
What will your conversations be about today?