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Is That What You Meant to Say?

by Steve Klein
via The Bulletin of the Church of Christ at New Georgia, March 29, 2009

An insurance agent was writing a policy for a cowboy. "Have you ever had any accidents?" the agent asked. "No, not really," replied the cowboy. "A horse threw me off and kicked me in the ribs once, and I got bit a couple of times by a rattlesnake, but that's about it." "Don't you call those accidents?" demanded the agent. "Oh no," said the cowboy, "They did them things on purpose!"

It occurs to me that many things that appear to be accidents, or that we pretend are accidents, are actually intended outcomes. Sin is seldom if ever accidental. We may say that we "didn't mean to do it" or "didn't mean to say it," but, most of the time, that isn't really true. And, even if we didn't mean to do it or say it, surely the tempter meant for us to. Righteousness isn't an accident either. Jesus didn't accidentally live a sinless life. It took purpose of heart to resist temptation and do right at every turn.

Barnabas encouraged Christians that "with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord" (Acts 11:23). Paul commended Timothy because he had "carefully followed" Paul's "doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance" (II Timothy 3:10). The life of a Christian is truly a purpose-driven life. It is lived with a sense of purpose, by those who choose to do right on purpose.

This applies to every aspect of our lives, including our speech. We will not say the right things accidentally. We must choose to say them. In Psalm 17:3 David wrote, "You have tested my heart; You have visited me in the night; You have tried me and have found nothing; I have purposed that my mouth shall not transgress." David was right before God because he had determined to control his mouth. We must also control our speech if we are to be acceptable to God. The Bible says that "If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one's religion is useless" (James 1:26).

We are to be thoughtful and purposeful with everything we say. Proverbs 15:28 states that, "The heart of the righteous studies how to answer, But the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil." The righteous man doesn't just say whatever comes into his mind. He"studies how to answer!" The New Testament commands, "Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers" (Ephesians 4:29).

Yet how often do we just talk without thinking about the effect of our words? In the Book of Job, Job's three friends had a lot to say to him that was pretty useless. Of them and their words Job says, "I have heard many such things; Miserable comforters are you all! Shall words of wind have an end? Or what provokes you that you answer?" (Job 16:2-3). One paraphrased translation of this has, "I've had all I can take of your talk. What a bunch of miserable comforters! Is there no end to your windbag speeches? What's your problem that you go on and on like this?" (MSG). Job's friends, though intelligent men, had not chosen to speak words that would have a positive effect.

Let us all give thought to the impact of our words. Words are powerful, and they will not be a power for good unless we purpose to make them so. Let's do our best to make sure that what we say is what we mean to say, and that what we mean to say is good.