The Identity of Words

by: Dr. Allen Domelle

Judges 12:6
“Then said they unto him, Say now Shibboleth: and he said Sibboleth: for he could not frame to pronounce it right. Then they took him, and slew him at the passages of Jordan: and there fell at that time of the Ephraimites forty and two thousand.”

Someone came to me recently and asked me where I was from. At first, I didn’t understand why they asked me this question, so I asked them why they wanted to know. They heard me say that I was from California, but they said my accent didn’t sound like I was from there. When I told them that I lived in Texas, they then understood why I spoke with my accent.

The verse above shows the power of not only what you say, but how you say it. Israel was fighting a civil war between Ephraim and the Gileadites. The only way they could discern who belonged to who was by how they pronounced a word. It is interesting that both tribes could pronounce the same word, but they pronounced it differently. How they pronounced one word showed their identity.

What you say is always important. Proverbs 25:11 says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.” Saying the right thing at the right time can make the difference in whether someone is helped or hurt. I believe it is important to be proper with what you say all the time. God’s people ought to learn how to say the right thing all the time.

However, how you say something can be as important as what you say. Isaiah 50:4 says, “The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary…” You can say the same thing, but how you say it can make a difference in how others take it. Your tone of words can make the difference as to whether you influence people for right or wrong. This is why Jesus said in Matthew 10:16, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” God wanted His servants to be wise with what they say and how they say it. Understanding the importance of what and how we say something brings a couple of thoughts to mind.

Woodland Baptist ChurchFirst, don’t respond in anger. When you respond in anger, you oftentimes say words with the wrong tone. Many relationships have been hurt because someone responded in a moment of anger, and the tone of how they said it hurt or damaged the spirit of another. Christians need to have the character to temper what they say during times of anger. It is always best to stay silent in a moment of displeasure than to say something out of irritation and hurt a relationship.

Second, NEVER settle problems or respond to tense situations through digital technology. The tone of what you say can never be read through a text or email. You may be very clear in your response, but the tone cannot be picked up. Many people have had to apologize for what they said through digital technology because others couldn’t read their tone. The best thing you could do is never to write something that could be taken wrongly.

My friend, what you say is important, but how you say it is just as important. Let me encourage you to be as careful with how you say things as you are with what you say. You will never regret guarding your tone and choice of words.

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