Words

Words

The numbers 80,000 to 100,000 always stick in my head. They stick in my head because that is the number of words that I need to have written before I can say that my thesis is complete. For perspective, the longer books that you read are often no longer than 100,000 words, most publishers don't want anything over 100,000. Technically there is no minimum word count. If I think I have done what I need to do in less than 80,000, I can submit the thesis. However, in the humanities we are often told that you probably can't produce something that will pass in less than 80,000 words.

A lot of my life is spent thinking about those words. Sometimes it is easy to get those words out and they flow. Sometimes trying to get those words out is like pulling teeth, it is painful. Even when I am not thinking about those words actively, the number sits in the back of my head, which is why the book of Proverbs is jarring. Reading and re-reading reminds me just how precious words are. The most commented on topic in Proverbs is the use of words. Words are important. As James says, with words, we can build up and tear down.

The Lord made heaven and earth with words, and our words can also create a reality. We only need to think about how our words can change a person's life. Praise a child for doing something simple like throwing a ball well, and that child will want nothing more than to keep doing it. If we tell someone that he/she isn't smart, and sooner or later that becomes the reality for that person. Our words are more powerful than we often imagine; they can create and they can destroy.

And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. - James 3:6

Our words are powerful. This is why it is so concerning when we use our words carelessly or we don't try to carefully understand the words others use. Words matter. My words matter. Other people's words matter. Too often we act as if words can be thrown away and are meaningless, so we post something flippant or thoughtless online. We say something without thought or care for what those particular words do. We read into someone else's words what we want them to say instead of what they actually said.

What would it look like to take our words seriously and to take the words of others seriously (I would guess social media would have a lot more videos of animals doing cute and/or funny things). The book of Proverbs' admonition to consider my words is jarring as I think about all the words I regularly write, speak, and read. The Lord calls me to be truthful and faithful, and at the same time gracious and measured. The Lord calls me to be careful in listening to other people's words. He calls me to not bear false witness to what others have said.

Words matter. Whether we are writing a PhD thesis or tweets, our words matter. When we learn the importance and power of our words, it changes how we think about what we say and what we read.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. - James 1:19–20

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