Do you have specific memories that have stayed with you of a specific person so that when you hear that person’s name, that one memory comes to mind?
I have a neighbor who recently passed away. Her name was Mrs. Mary Jane Chestnut. She was an elementary school teacher and I had her for math. The main memory that comes to mind about her was a specific exercise she had our math class to do. She was a stickler for properly speaking numbers orally. She would call on a student and write a number of more than 3 digits on the overhead (if you remember overhead projectors and writing on transparencies, as I do, rejoice in your old age!) The student would then have to say aloud what the number was without saying “and” within their words.
For example, if she wrote the number 10,486, you would have to say, “Ten thousand, four hundred eighty-six.” The tendency of most was to say, “Ten thousand, four hundred AND eighty-six.”
It seems like a simple exercise, but it fooled us all of how hard it was. The funny thing was that you could see the concentration on the student’s face as they tried to speak the number. Most of the time, they would think they had spoken correctly when in fact they had inserted the word, “and.” We had to continue doing the exercise until everyone avoided that simple word successfully.
I have no idea why that particular memory stuck with me. But as I thought about her passing, it came back to mind and I had this realization. So many times in our lives, we misspeak without thinking about what we have really said. It may be out of habit or ignorance.
Or it could be that it is revealing our inward, spiritual condition. Christ said, “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man.” Matthew 15:18 (NKJV)
What about the words which come out of our mouths quickly when something goes wrong? Or the words that used to make us blush when we heard them, but now we hardly notice? Some words, such as, “and,” could be completely innocent, but there is still a proper time, place and way to use them.
As Christians, we often say the words “Jesus,” “God” and “holy.” But how many times are those words used in unholy ways?
The Bible says a lot about how we should speak. Here are just a couple of verses.
“Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances.” Proverbs 25:11 (NASB)
“When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise.” Proverbs 10:19 (NASB)
There is a lot of power in the spoken word. God used His words to create the world. He spoke things into being.
“For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.” Psalm 33:9 (NASB)
Christ used His words to heal, teach, rebuke and comfort. And when Christ started His sentences with, “Truly, truly, I say to you…”, we had better listen.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.” John 6:47 (NASB)
However, of all the things we can say, of all the words in the English language we can use, I have come to believe that the most important words we can speak is the words we use to answer this question from Christ:
“But who do you say that I am?” Matthew 16:15 (NASB)
So what about Mrs. Chestnut? She said it right, answered the question correctly, and is now spending eternity with her Savior. Thank you Mrs. Chestnut, for teaching lessons that reached far beyond the classroom walls of 7th and 8th grade math.
How about you? Are you saying it right?