These are inflammatory times. Covid-19 is headline news. The factual data and the hype have us all guessing, arguing, and criticizing. The backdrop is equally disturbing---health uncertainty, a wildly fluctuating economy, many life necessity shortages, event postponements, closings and delays, and political drama, to mention a few. Emotions are on edge and communication is strained, especially on social media. The lure of clickbait is suddenly too delicious to resist. And, our words have power. Right now they're broadly destructive.
Solomon's practical, yet profoundly spiritual Proverbs have been a source of inspiration and conviction for me. People who know me well know my love for language. They are also aware that I'm usually a man of many words, not as asset in Solomon's estimation. As a result, this week I'll be sharing five convictions about my, and most likely our, use of words in times like these. Perhaps you'll find some guidance in these simple "words have power" observations this week as well.
Solomon wrote about about several categories of language we should avoid. With Divine inspiration and a great deal of common sense, he identified smooth, rash, harsh, and hasty words as being notably troubling. Each is depicted through vivid images from his own experiences that the people of his day would have easily understood. The final thought will contrast them all with the gracious words that should mark most of our interpersonal communication.
Smooth words were mentioned in several explicit, straight-forward references and a few others that were more veiled---
So you will be delivered from the forbidden woman, from the adulteress with her
smooth words., who forsakes the companions of her youth and forgets the covenant of
Proverbs 2: 16, ESV
Say to wisdom, "You're my sister," and call insight your intimate friend, to keep you
from the forbidden woman, from the adulteress with her smooth words.
Proverbs 7: 5, ESV
In these instances Solomon was inspired to utilize the metaphor of an adulteress, the forbidden woman, when warning of being entrapped by smooth words. It is a reference to the one who lures us into sin. The temptation to sin is likened to the smooth, enticing words of an adulteress. The smooth words are attractive, alluring, and appealing verbal morsels with the capacity to charm and captivate us. We all know this smooth language because we've used it to get what we want in life. How many times did we use sweet talk to get what we wanted from our parents, friends, teachers? They're not always geared to draw others into some deep, dark sinful thoughts or actions. Smooth words are, however, very self-centered, and very persuasive. They help us move others to our desired outcomes. What is more, smooth words aren't necessarily falsehoods. In many instances they're just amplified or overstated truth, flattering expressions to win the favor of another. And, Solomon warned of flattering talk too---
A lying tongue hates its victims, and a flattering mouth works ruin. Proverbs 26:28, ESV
Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with his
Proverbs 28:23, ESV
A man who flatters hie neighbor spreads a net for his feet.
Proverbs 29:5, ESV
You mean compliments are off limits? Certainly not. A compliment is earnest respect or admiration for another person. Flattery, that is, smooth words, are deceptive and false. With all the verbal fireworks today we can expect flattery and smooth talk from the politicians, marketing geniuses, and people who want something from us, whether votes or money or some other favor. Smooth words are inappropriate, even when they are polished, refined, and as smooth as silk. We should not use them. Even more, we should never be enticed by them, however pleasing they may sound.
Leave the smooth words in that Roget's book on your shelf.