Generosity of Words
“Kind words are like honey, sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” -Proverbs 16:24
When I was 17 I had just started work as a certified nursing assistant in the local nursing home. Being a CNA is not a glamorous job; it involves a lot of taking folks to the restroom, being mistreated by residents who are suffering from dementia, and attempting to cajole people into drinking at least a little of their Ensure. Also, my boyfriend had just dumped me, so I was kind of down in the dumps. One day, after I had just finished taking a gentleman to the restroom and was bringing the dirty linens down to the laundry room, a man who was visiting his mom stopped me. He looked me intently in the eyes and said “Thank you for all that you do. You are doing God’s work.” His words lit up my heart and flipped on a light bulb in my head; “Yes! I was doing God’s work! All of us CNAs were. And what a privilege it was to be given the chance to be His hands to those in need of a warm bath, redirection, and a steady hand to help them get dinner to their mouths!”. It took that man maybe 30 seconds to stop and thank me, but his kind words helped me to see the deep purpose of my work in the nursing home (and later in the various group homes and other care settings that I worked in). He helped me to live into a calling to care for the Least of His.
Our words have enormous power. They have the power to build up, or to tear down. They can be the little mustard seed that grows into a bush so big the birds of the air nest in it (as in that man’s kind words leading me down a path of working joyfully as a caregiver for eight years). Or they can cut down like a sword. Proverbs 18:24 teaches us that “The power of death and life are in the tongue…”. Jesus warns us “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”-Matthew 12:36-37
Jesus was generous with words that built up those around Him. Jesus took care to talk kindly to vulnerable people; to the woman who was bleeding He spoke “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” (Luke 8:48), seeking out the despised tax collector Zacchaeus Jesus said ““Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” (Luke 19:5), speaking to all who would listen Jesus said, “Do not be afraid little flock…” (Luke 12:32), what tender words! Jesus also spoke words of encouragement; he nicknamed Simon “The Rock” (John 1:42) long before Simon Peter started acting anything like the “Rock upon which His church will be built”, just hours before being crucified Jesus took the time to encourage his terrified disciples saying things like “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s house.” (John 14:1-2). God-With-Us used His words to plant mustard seeds of hope, joy, love, peace, and faithfulness in those He encountered. We are called to do the same. We are called to be generous with our words of kindness and encouragement. Think of how our families, church, and community could be transformed if we were all generous with our Kingdom-building words!
Dear God, forgive us for the careless words we have spoken. Please grant us wisdom, love, and boldness to freely speak words that plant Your kingdom in the hearts of those we talk to. Amen.
Now Go and Do: Take 15 minutes to reflect on how you use words. How have you used them to give life? How have you used them to bring death? How does the knowledge that you will have to give an account to God for every careless word you speak make you feel? (It doesn’t make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside-thank God grace abounds). Imagine yourself being more generous with words of kindness and encouragement. How might that impact the people you talk to?
Love, Your Generosity Project Team (Adrienne Danielson, Deb Hess, Shari Fuhr and Marlys Mathiowetz)