Minister and author Frederick Buechner writes about words in his book Beyond Words:
“In Hebrew the term DABAR means both ‘word and deed’. Thus to say something is to do something. “I love you.” “I hate you.” “I forgive you.” “I am afraid of you.” Who knows what such words do, but whatever it is, it cannot be undone. Something that lay hidden in the heart is irrevocably released through speech into time, is given substance and tossed like a stone into a pool of history, where the concentric rings lap out endlessly.”
In the New Testament Epistle of James 3: 1-12 the apostle writes about the role one part of our body plays in our communication with one another: “How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire. . . .With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so.”
Jesus has some thoughts on the subject, too. In Matthew 12: 34-37 we hear the following: “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. The good person brings good things out of the good stored up, and the evil person brings evil things out of the evil stored up. But I tell you that people will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
In a cemetery in Massachusetts there is the grave of one Arabella Young, whose epitaph on the tombstone reads as follows: “Beneath this stone, a lump of clay, lies Arabella Young, who on the 24th of May, 1771, began to hold her tongue.” In honor of Arabella, Sunday’s sermon is entitled “Hold Your Tongue”, as we explore the power of words to affirm or to alienate; to build, or belittle; to comfort, or criticize; to delight or to destroy; and so on and so on and so on.