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Simple Speech

Read: John 4:4-6; Psalm 139:13-16; Ephesians 2:10


I was eating out with friends the other day when an ordinary moment really gave me pause. A few simple words, but they spoke volumes to me. May I explain? One of my friends was ordering her lunch, and she asked the gentleman who was waiting on us a question. If she chose the sweet potato fries, would they be greasy? I understand that question because I too, don't like limp fried food that leaves an oily spot on the plate and that heavy feeling inside my body. His answer was straight forward. He couldn't promise they would be the way she wanted them to be, but he said that "they should be." He was not willing to guarantee what he couldn't control. His words were respectful and polite; however, he couldn't promise a particular hoped-for outcome, and to me, that was a wise and winsome use of words.


What a reminder of the importance of keeping our words simple. Not offering something we might not be able to deliver. I don't think that we misspeak on purpose. Rather, we sometimes promise too quickly or say we can do something before we think through the likely ramifications of saying yes. Maybe we want to truly show love toward someone with whom we are speaking, and because of that, we say we'll do something. Sometimes we can forget that a day might go differently than we planned, and before we know it, we find that we are unable to do what we truly thought we could do. How often a day unfolds with twists and turns that we couldn't have anticipated. Like the gentleman at the restaurant, we must admit that many things are simply out of our control. Even the promise to pray at an agreed upon time might prove challenging on a given day. More about that later.


So, what might we do in light of this very real challenge? Perhaps one of these principles from the scriptures can help us to speak with God's wisdom and winsomeness.


1. When we agree or say no to doing something whether large or small, we can remember that even Jesus had the same limitations that we have. He could only be in one place at a time, and His days had the same number of hours as ours do. He too became weary, John 4:4-6. He truly understands the many needs all around us and the weakness that comes because we are human, Psalm 103:14. I love the reminder that He and the disciples went out on the boat together in order to get a little rest, Mark 6:30-32. Everything we say we will do must have enough margins around it to fit into the day, and we must factor in the amount of strength that we each have. Thankfully, because it is God Who has uniquely designed each of us, Psalm 139:13-16, we have each been given the amount of strength that He intended. Each of us has a different amount of tasks that we can do effectively because of the parameters God has given us; so, what we can say we will do looks different than what a brother or sister can agree to. We are God's workmanship, and He is the One Who has enabled us to do the good works that He has prepared for us., Ephesians 2:10. We are not carbon copies of someone else, and no one is exactly like us.

2. When there is something that needs to be done, and if we are uncertain whether or not we can do it at a given time, we can admit that. Maybe we could offer to do a small part of a job or simply say that we will come if we can. As I type this, please know that I'm not talking about being wishy-washy or being unwilling to commit. I merely mean that if we are uncertain about our availability or ability to do something, we should be free to admit that. We can lovingly say that we will help if we can or, that it looks unlikely that we will be able to help. Back to my friend and her questions concerning the sweet potato fries. The honest answer of the waiter allowed her to choose whether or not she would take a chance on the fries. She chose not to. Instead, she ordered a side dish that she had enjoyed when she ate at that establishment at another time. When we are honest concerning our availability to do something, others involved can choose to factor our availability or our lack thereof into what needs to be done.


3. Back to the promise to pray. There are a few things that come to mind that might help us fulfill this promise. Sometimes, we can pray at the time the request for prayer is shared. That ensures that we won't forget. Praying with someone spontaneously can be a loving gift, and it can be encouraging for both the one who gives it and the one who receives it. If a certain time for praying is desired, we could set an alarm on a watch or phone as a reminder. Simple things that might keep us from having to admit that we forgot to pray.


4. What if we do promise to do something and we do forget? When that happens, we have another chance to offer winsome words. A simple "I'm sorry", without excuse, goes a long way, and a simple "I understand" is another gift of winsome and wise words.   What a joy it is to belong to a family where we can admit our imperfections and imitations.


Lord, words are one of Your good gifts, James 1:17.

Help us to speak with wisdom and winsomeness.

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