A few months ago I was sharing with some of our School’s leaders how, from a certain point of view, we are all millionaires.

It was clear that I wasn’t referring to the contents of anyone’s bank accounts – including mine.

Rather, in terms of the “currency” that we deal with each day, we are millionaires – if you measured that currency in words.

Granted, in our chaplaincy positions at school we may not use anything like a million words in a day – though at times it can feel like I’ve come uncomfortably (and probably unnecessarily!) close to that mark. (In fact, according to imperfect and unscientific research, somewhere between 5000 and 20000 words a day is apparently a common amount for a person to use – not that I’ve ever counted…).

It’s in the nature of our particular roles and ministries that we’re expected to be reasonably proficient in dealing with our wealth of words, isn’t it?  I’m thankful to God for the many colleagues in school chaplaincy who, over the years, continue to exemplify great fiscal responsibility (as it were) with their ‘currency’!

As we know, this particular currency is both precious – and powerful.

Our words can pierce like swords, or corrode like toxic chemicals; but they can also, in God’s grace, do outstanding works of help & healing, penetrating places that no human medicine could reach.

God’s Word affirms that long before the Internet or social media, a person’s words had a remarkable power to “go viral”!

James makes that clear in chapter 3 of his letter, using the metaphor of a forest fire to describe the tongue as a ‘restless evil’. 

We know that technology, especially social media, just keeps increasing the power, speed and opportunities for that evil to manifest itself – instantly, and uncontrollably.

So what should be the ‘colour of our money’?

How should we spend our words with generosity and wisdom, on those within our school communities?

Drawing from helpful reflections on the book of Proverbs by the writer and pastor Tim Keller, who passed into glory about this time a year ago, here are some of the spending recommendations – or should that be “financial advice”? –  from this particular part of Scripture that have encouraged me to shape my thinking and practice about where and how to invest my “word currency”:

Are my words honest words

‘A honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.’ (Proverbs 24:26)

Just as a kiss on the lips was, and is, a loving act of special intimacy, so honesty in our words is and should be a loving act; unlike misleading or lying words, which show a lack of love by turning situations to advantage oneself. 

Are they kind words?

‘Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.’ (Proverbs 12:25)

While we’re called to be truthful or honest with our words, it doesn’t mean using that truth like some sort of weapon.

Words of kindness are words that seek always to benefit those who listen (Ephesians 4:25) – they reveal the motive of one’s speech. These words are a key expression of the often-quoted ‘speaking the truth, in love’ to which Ephesian 4:15 refers  – lifting up someone sinking in anxiety or fear.

Are they gentle words?

‘A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.’ (Proverbs 15:1)

Being gentle in our words doesn’t necessarily mean agreement; but it means being respectful and friendly.  Even if we may be correct, we won’t use our words to bludgeon others into submission to our viewpoint.  Gentle words, as we know, bless by helping to de-escalate arguments and disarm anger.

Do I have apt or timely words? 

A person finds joy in giving an apt reply – and how good is a timely word!’ (Proverbs 15:23)

Truthful words, healing words, can sometimes sting – using apt or timely words isn’t never saying anything to make people unhappy.

Rather it’s about fitting our words to our listener’s circumstances, capacity, temperament – so they are as persuasive and attractive and hearable as possible. Seeking wisdom to choose the right time – and context – in which to speak. Also, it can mean good ‘budgetting’, by not being too quick or too slow to speak; whilst being aware that sometimes it may be best to avoid spending our ‘currency’ by not speaking at all!  As Proverbs 17:27 reminds us, ‘The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint’.

Of course, there are many other shades of the colour of this money, that we’ve been given in such abundance!  But maybe I’ve overspent in this reflection; so I’ll end and encourage us to pray that we ‘millionaires’ will use our words wisely and well, honouring the One with the words of eternal life…

Mark Rundle Written by:

After many years in school chaplaincy work in Sydney’s north-west, Rev Mark Rundle is in his third year of a ‘tree-change’, as Head Chaplain at Calrossy Anglican School, in Tamworth in regional NSW. Chaplaincy life now includes ministering to a large Boarding community; appreciating the absence of anything like a traffic snarl; and seeing the occasional kangaroo appear outside one’s classroom. Good coffee; good reading; and passions for most sports and 80s music are accompaniments to making and taking opportunities to point the School community to the ‘Light and Life’ (Calrossy’s motto) found in Jesus Christ.

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