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A woman took her family reunion pictures to a photo lab to have them touched up a bit. While discussing the project the clerk said, “We can do amazing things with these photos. We can remove wrinkles and make you look 30 pounds lighter.”
The woman responded, “You can? Can you put them on my sister?”
A preacher was teaching a class on the Ten Commandments. While teaching on the fifth commandment he spoke about what it meant to honor our mothers and fathers. Through the course of the lesson the question came up why there isn’t a commandment dealing with brothers and sisters. Someone quickly responded, “There is. Thou shalt not kill.”
I would argue that Paul has a perfect commandment for dealing with our brothers and sisters, and anyone else for that matter.
It is Ephesians 4:29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs.”
As someone who can be brutally sarcastic, and not proud of it, I have shortened and simplified this verse to remind me what God wants from me, “Use only words that are useful for building up.” Words of encouragement are so precious. They can change the way a person lives their lives, thinks about themselves and treats other people.
We all have enough people around us that
tear us down. We can’t have enough people around us to build us up, and that is true for the importance of us building others up as well.
A young musician’s concert was poorly received by the critics. The famous Finnish composer Jean Sibelius consoled him by patting him on the shoulder and saying, “Remember, son, there is no city in the world where they have a statue to a critic.”
In their book Passionate People, Keith Miller and Bruce Larson, they describe two kinds of people: basement people and balcony people. Basement people are the discouragers in our lives. They may be people from our past or present, but their words go with us everywhere we go. They say things like, “You can’t do that,” “You are so stupid,” and/or “You will never amount to anything.” Basement people don’t care if they shatter our hopes and dreams. They don’t use words that are useful for building others up.
In contrast to them are the Balcony People. They are people who are full of love, encouragement and cheer us on. They encourage us to be better than we think we can be, and help us become courageous followers of Christ. They sit in the balcony of our lives like a cheering section sent by God, saying, “You can succeed,” “I believe in you,” “You are special to me and to God.” Balcony people are the great encouragers in our lives, and we all need them.
Consider this: to build a building it will take weeks or months of careful planning, purchasing and skilled construction. One can tear a building down in a few days with no skill or plan. With a little dynamite or a big bulldozer the job can be done in moments. When our words are like dynamite we can tear a person down in moments and our words may go with the person for a lifetime. It will take a kind and loving person years to rebuild that person.
So which kind of person are you?
Do you tend to use words that build up or tear down?
Is there someone you have hurt with your words that you need to ask for forgiveness from?
Is there someone, a child, a brother or a sister that deserves some words of encouragement, but you have been too stingy to tell them how proud you are of them?
What would it take for you to live by the phrase, “Use only words that are useful for building others up?”
Al Earley is pastor of La Grange Presbyterian Church. To find out more about Al Earley or read previous articles see www.lagrangepres.com.