Summary: "Like apples of gold in settings of silver", our words are meant to inspire others, to encourage them, and to convey words of love.
Now that winter is moving in, we will begin to enjoy the host of activities that come with the snow and cold weather: skiing, tobogganing, ice skating, and snowball fights, to name a few. But there is another activity that captures the interests of many during the winter months, and that is seeing if your tongue will stick to cold metal. Have any of you done that before? If you grew up anywhere cold, I’m sure you’ve either tried it, or seen someone try it.
My dad told me a story about something that happened when he was in High School. On one of the colder days, he says, there was a group of guys hanging out on the football field. As they talked, a couple of the guys looked over at the football goal post and wondered aloud what would happen if someone stuck their tongue to it. After a few minutes of discussion, one of the guys dared the others to stick their tongues to the post. And so they did. No sooner had they stuck their tongues to the goal post than the bell rang, and the other guy ran off to class. So here were half a dozen guys all lined up, their tongues stuck to the frozen metal, writhing in pain, until a teacher came out with a cup of hot water to free them from their predicament.
As I think about it, though, the thing that I find funny is that I ended up doing the same thing. A friend and I were outside in my back yard one chilly afternoon, and for some reason, we both decided to stick our tongues out and lick the metal railing on the deck. And sure enough, our tongues stuck. Only there was no one with a cup of hot water to free us, and we had to suffer the pain of pulling our tongues away. Let me tell you, I never did that again. Not that winter anyway….
It’s amazing what trouble our tongues will get us into. And I’m talking about more than just sticking it to a frozen piece of metal (which, by the way, I don’t recommend, and I don’t want anyone saying I told them to do.) Someone once said that the tongue should be classified as a dangerous weapon. And if you stop to think about it, it’s true: more damage is done by the words we speak, than perhaps by any other method.
In order to uncover the processes that destroy unions, marital researchers study couples over the course of years, and even decades, and retrace the star-crossed steps of those who have split up back to their wedding day. What they have discovered is unsettling. None of the factors one would guess might predict a couple’s durability actually does: not how in love a newlywed couple say they are; how much affection they exchange; how much they fight or what they fight about. In fact, couples who will endure and those who won’t look remarkably similar in the early days. Yet when psychologists Cliff Notarius of Catholic University and Howard Markman of the University of Denver studied newlyweds over the first decade of marriage, they found a very subtle but telling difference at the beginning of the relationships.
Among couples who would ultimately stay together, 5 out of every 100 comments made about each other were put-downs. Among couples who would later split, 10 of every 100 comments were insults. That gap magnified over the following decade, until couples heading downhill were flinging five times as many cruel and invalidating comments at each other as happy couples. “Hostile put-downs act as cancerous cells that, if unchecked, erode the relationship over time,” says Notarius, who with Markman co-authored the book We Can Work It Out. “In the end, relentless unremitting negativity takes control and the couple can’t get through a week without major blowups.”
God recognised the potential of the tongue. Notice what His Word tells us, in the book of Proverbs, chapter 18 and verses 20 and 21…
Have you ever stopped to think of just how much of an impact your words can have on an individual, either for the good or for the bad? Remember what we just learned about the power of words in marriage: if even only ten out of 100 comments made are negative, the relationship can be headed for disaster. Only 10! When we understand the significance of our words, the power of our tongues, we must take pause and think about how much damage we’re doing to those around us.
This message, though, is not to focus on the negative power of words, but the positive. So turn with me please, now, to the 25th chapter of Proverbs, and let’s look at verse 11…. We have the power, with our words, to reveal the love of God to another – a love as beautiful and striking as golden coloured apples in a silver setting.