To My Grandsons: O Be Careful Little Tongue What You Say
by Dale Reeves
When I was a little boy, we would often sing a certain song at church, and some of the lyrics went like this:
“O be careful little tongue what you say,
O be careful little tongue what you say;
For the Father up above is looking down in love,
So, be careful little tongue what you say.”
Luke, Liam, and Miles, I want to take some time today to talk with you about the power of words. You don’t know this yet, but the world you were born into will bring you lots of blessings, but it will also give you some scars. The year is 2020. This year will go down in history as one of the most challenging years Americans have ever faced. This year has brought a global crisis that impacted many people’s lives due to a virus, and it has affected the economic present and future of many families.
There has been no shortage of opinions on what caused this situation, how to best deal with it, and what we should do about it going forward. As summer hit, the challenges of racism in our country once again came to the forefront. And, once again, there have been no shortages of opinions on the matter. Everyone I know has a few scars and wounds that have penetrated their hearts and emotions. Everyone has a story that is worth listening to. In an effort to share their stories, some people have done so with respect, speaking honestly from their hearts, and doing so by “speaking the truth in love.”
But others have shared their stories in a way that does not bring about healing, but rather, in a way that can bring about more scars. When I was your age, such a thing as social media didn’t exist, so we didn’t have to read the kinds of things every day that cause hurts, create division, and feed into a critical spirit. I am sorry that you will grow up in a world where you will be exposed to many opinions that are not based upon the truth of what God wants us to know. But I want you to know that God’s truth is unchanging, and will always be relevant to the way he wants to guide your life.
The Power of Words
There is great wisdom for your life in God’s Word, and there are some very important words that you should read and practice from the book of Proverbs, including these words . . .
“The tongue has the power of life and death” (Proverbs 18:21, NIV).
There are many words you can speak to others that will bring life. They will bring about good in other people’s lives. Some of these words are things like . . .
- God loves you just the way you are!
- I am praying for you.
- You are right where God wants you to be.
- You are making a difference in other people’s lives.
- I see Jesus in you.
- I was wrong. Will you forgive me?
- I love you!
But there are some words that have the power of death. They cut deep wounds in people’s hearts, words like these . . .
- No one would miss you if you went away.
- I hate you!
- I don’t ever want to see you or hear from you again.
- You are an underachiever.
- You’ll never amount to anything.
- You are as dumb as you look.
And, some of these are tame compared to the kinds of words you can read on social media and hear in the news every day. Sometimes people say hurtful things to others because of the pain they have experienced in their lives. Hurt people often hurt people.
The Power to Encourage
The author of Proverbs also said this, “The words of the godly encourage many” (10:21); “The heart of the godly thinks carefully before speaking” (15:28).
Boys, when you were born into this world, you did not come with a preset bag of critical, hate-filled, racist-inspired, or scar-causing phrases to speak to others. You were created in the very image of God, and more than anything, God’s character is love. Sometimes we as adults have to spend time in our adult lives “un-learning” things in our hearts and minds that should have never been there in the first place. Some of them are there because of past scars we have received from wounds others have inflicted on us.
My hope and prayer for you as you grow up is that you will be able to discern God’s truth among the many voices that you will hear in our world every day, that you will be able to clearly hear what God desires of you, not what others in the world would have you believe or act on. God’s Word is the very thing that will give you life, hope, and joy in a world that sometimes offers you less than the best that God desires for you.
The Power to Bless
Yesterday we celebrated Father’s Day. The way you treat others, and the way you speak to others will have an impact on the joy you can bring to your dads (and Pop Pop too!). God’s Word tells us, “The father of a righteous child has great joy; a man who fathers a wise son rejoices in him” (Proverbs 23:24, NIV).
We watched you boys the other day as you jumped about and frolicked and crawled in the pool, as you squirted water on the ones who brought you into this world. We watched as you yelled with anticipation because someone wasn’t feeding you fast enough. We watched as you grunted with glee as you were able to pull yourself up and could see your reflection in the glass of the fireplace doors. May you never grow old and lose the wonder and curiosity that God placed in your heart and mind. And may you learn to use your words to bring about life, and not death.