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Pleasant Words

Pleasant Words


King Tutankhamen - King Tut - reigned as Pharaoh of Egypt from 1332 B.C., when he was nine years old, until 1323 B.C., when he died at the age of 18.


King Tut was obviously very young at the time of his rule, but he is known for some major accomplishments. One was the amount of building he sponsored. Much of what he had built was in honor of the god he worshiped, not the true God we worship, but he had a lot of building done. Another accomplishment was restoring diplomatic relations with neighboring nations. Unfortunately for him and for Egypt, there were still wars, but he tried to retain peace when possible.


King Tut was important, but as happens to all, he died. Again, he was 18 when that happened to him. He was buried in a tomb that had been built for him. There his body laid at rest until 1922, when the tomb was discovered.


In 1922, King Tut’s tomb was opened. A number of things were found, in addition to his mummified body.


One of the things found was his death mask, still in excellent shape. I did a bit of reading about the death mask. My understanding is that the mask did not necessarily show what King Tut looked like. It was more an attempt to make him appear god-like. The mask was and is very valuable, made of two layers of gold.


Also found in the tomb were shrines made of gold, plus jewelry, clothing, furniture, and weapons. 


Then found was a pot filled with honey. Honey still edible more than 3200 years after it was entombed with King Tut.


In our times, honey is considered mainly a sweetener, but in the ancient world, honey had other uses as well. Honey is one of few foods with all the nutrients needed to sustain life, so it was used for nutrition. Honey has medicinal value. It is one of the oldest known dressings for wounds. Honey can prevent infection. As proved in King Tut’s tomb, honey also lasts. It retains its value for a very, very long time.


Guess what. There is something else that is sweet and healing. Something else that will last and last and last. It is, as taught in the Bible, “pleasant words.” 


“Pleasant” is sometimes translated “gracious.” Gracious is defined as courteous, kind, tasteful, reflecting God rather than worldly views and moods.


The call to use pleasant, gracious words - how good it is to speak that way - is recorded several places in the Bible. We will consider three of them in this message. The first for our consideration is Proverbs 16:24. “Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.”


Remember the Book of Proverbs is a listing of many instructions about how to live in just about every aspect of life. In Proverbs 16:24, the aspect of the words we use is addressed. Again, the call is for us to speak pleasantly - courteously, kindly, tastefully. Our words are to display that we truly are God’s people.


What does that mean? I looked online to find some stories of people using or hearing courteous, tasteful words. As I might have guessed, while there are a few such stories I found, there are many, many more stories of the opposite being heard.


I will share a few of those, I think to have us check ourselves to make sure we do not misuse our words, or if we have misused them, to be sorry for saying hurtful things. So sorry we will pray to not say such things again.


Here is one such story. A man writes that when he was 14, his family moved from Nebraska to Texas. The man was in the middle of his ninth-grade year of school at the time.


The man remembers walking into his school’s cafeteria for the first time. He was all by himself. The other kids had the luxury of established friendships, but he did not know anyone. The cliques were already formed.


After making his way through the serving line, he slid into the nearest open seat. There were three other boys at the table. They gave him the once-over, wrinkled their noses, and then snickered. The 14-year-old boy could feel his face getting red with embarrassment. He looked down at his food.


Finally one of the other kids broke the ice. “Man,” he said, “you have one big nose.”


The 14-year-old was mortified. He did not know what to say. He wanted to cry, but he managed a little laugh, pretending the words did not really bother him.


But the words did hurt. In fact, the man writes, every day from that point forward, for many years, every time he looked at himself in the mirror, all he could see was, as he worded it, his “big fat nose,” which to him dwarfed every other feature.


I chuckle at his next words. He concluded he was “merely a life support system for a nose.” To him, it was his defining feature.


As the man adds, thankfully, he eventually grew out of that perception, but it took him 20 years to do so. He admits that even now, he is a little self-conscious about his nose.


The words about the 14-year-old boy’s nose were not pleasant. They were not sweet. They did not bring health to his body - or his mind. That means those words are against the teaching of Proverbs 16:24. 


The point is this. Let’s make sure our words are pleasant. And by the way, there must always be the statement that sometimes strong, forceful words are needed. Jesus Himself used strong, forceful words, sometimes trying to get the attention of religious leaders who were fighting against Him, one time because some religious businessmen were cheating people inside the Temple, where worshiping and praying were supposed to be going on.


This is not a call to always be sweetness and light in everything we say. Sometimes harshness is called for. But by and large, in most circumstances we find ourselves in, in most of our relationships, pleasant words are needed.  


There are so many negative things all around us. Can we not all use some sweetness? Not from honey, but from words we hear and in words we say, bringing health to others. At least making it more likely we and others can stay healthy.


That teaching is also found in another verse in Proverbs, this time Proverbs 12:18, which gives two possible ways we can use our words. “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

Have we ever said things - have we ever heard things - that feel like sword thrusts? 


I remember when I was picked on as a boy, my parents would often encourage me to say that sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. That certainly sounds good, but boy, is it inaccurate. Right?


Here is another story I came across The one who wrote this one did not have a nose problem, but she had, as she words it, “Bugs Bunny teeth,” which of course one of her fellow students mentioned to her, no doubt over and over again. 


Listen to what she added. “The offender has long forgotten the words, but I can close my eyes and remember it like it was yesterday.”


Again, sometimes we must be forceful with our words to stand up for spiritual truth. There is no question about that. But by and large, in most circumstances we find ourselves in, in most of our relationships, rash words - unpleasant words - are not needed.


Instead, we are to make our words healing. We are to speak words of truth.


What truth? God made you. God loves you. God can use you just as you are. God wants you to accept Jesus as your Savior. He wants you to know and do all that so He can bless you now and promise you Heaven.


A couple baseball managers some years ago came to my mind as I thought of today’s message. One of them was for the Baltimore Orioles. Earl Weaver.

I remember Earl Weaver was a live wire. He often yelled at umpires, sometimes running up to them, usually getting his nose in their faces, yelling with wild gestures. I remember he especially liked kicking dust on home plate. When I think of a user of rash words, Earl Weaver comes to mind. 


I remember Whitey Herzog of the Kansas City Royals. His was a much calmer approach to the game of baseball. As manager, he used his words to encourage his players quietly. Of course, he also disagreed with the calls of umpires from time to time, but it at least seemed that when he argued a call, which was always done while under control of himself, the umpire knew he had made a mistake.


There is no way of knowing, but I wonder if Whitey Herzog got his way more than Earl Weaver got his way. I suspect that might be true because - remember - rash words are like sword thrusts. They hurt and harm and damage. But the tongue of the wise brings healing.


Pleasant words, like honey, are sweet and good medicine. The teaching of Proverbs is that they, like honey, will last a long, long time. Hopefully longer than rash, unpleasant words.


Let’s move to a New Testament teaching about making our words pleasant, courteous, kind - and helpful. Ephesians 4:29.


That verse is in the middle of a paragraph that has a lot of instructions about how to treat others. 


Some of it is related to things other than our words. “Do honest work.” “Be kind and tenderhearted.” “Forgive one another.”


Other instructions do relate to our words. “Put away falsehood.” “Do not slander.”


Then, in verse 29, this. “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths.” That can refer to dirty words. It can also refer to rash, unpleasant words. 


One girl, in another story I found, writes that when she was young, her grandmother told her everyone in the family liked her older sister better than they liked her. That is an example of evil talk


“Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for edifying, as fits the occasion.”


Edifying. Edification. It comes for the same root word as edifice or building. It means our words are to build each other up. We are to develop people around us, not tear them down.


For our purposes as a congregation, that is to include helping one another to grow in our Christian faith, encouraging each other to learn and then apply what is known.


As fits the occasion is a teaching to say the right words at the right time. For instance, when someone experiences a major problem or disappointment, we need to be careful not to dismiss their pain or frustration. Plus, that may not be the best time to give a lecture about what he or she could or should have done differently.


Perhaps the best example of that was how Jesus handled Peter after the Lord’s resurrection. 


As we know, before the crucifixion, Peter, despite his earlier claims that he would never turn away from Jesus, three times denied Him. 


It was shortly after the failure that Jesus was killed. Remember what happened on the third day after His death? The day of the Lord’s resurrection? An angel, speaking for Jesus, gave some women some instructions for His disciples. Remember the wording? “Tell the disciples and Peter” that Jesus wanted to meet with them, which turned out to be an encouraging meeting.


Jesus had every right to ignore Peter or, when they met, to remind him of his failure, to yell at him in ridicule, to laugh at him.


Jesus did none of that. Instead, He edified Peter. He built up Peter, letting him know he was still worth something in the eyes of Jesus.


Our words are to be edifying, as fits the occasion, that “our words may impart grace to those who hear."


Remember what being gracious means. Courteous, kind, tasteful, reflecting of God rather than worldly views and moods. 


And yes, one more time, sometimes people need to be reproved or corrected or shown the error of their ways. Actually, that, too, is a type of graciousness. But by and large, in most circumstances we find ourselves in, in most of our relationships, pleasant words are needed. Sweet and healing words that will build up and encourage rather than tear down. 


Words like these I read online. 


“I remember in tenth grade, during one of the lowest times in my life, my science teacher ate lunch with me and said, ‘Artie, you have something special. There’s nothing that will be too big for you.’” That started that young man on a path to success.

"When I was a young platoon leader in the Army and felt like I was failing to contribute much, my first company commander told me to relax, that I was an investment. The idea that he saw my worth - even my future worth - was so freeing.”

“I remember going through a horrific business failure. My business partner and I lost everything. We did not have two nickels to rub together. I had no clue how I was going to provide for my family. I called my dad. His words provided grace. They were just what I needed - reassurance, encouragement, confidence-building. That call was like Red Bull for my soul. It gave me the energy to hang in and keep fighting, and it gave me the grace I needed to do the right thing for my family, for my business, and for my future.”


Make sure your words - I am to do the same - let’s make sure our words build others up, imparting grace.


May we remember that rash words hurt like thrust swords. We should not ever want to cause such pain, so let’s make our words those of healing. Let’s have the wisdom to make sure of that.


Let’s remember the benefits of pleasant words, which are sweetness to the soul and health for the body - as sweet and as healing as honey. And let’s remember that as long as honey can survive, so will our gracious words survive.


Today’s closing song is Help Us, O Lord, to Learn.


Help us, O Lord, to learn

The truths Thy word imparts;

To study that Thy laws may be

Inscribed upon our hearts.


Help us, O Lord, to live

The faith which we proclaim,

That all our thoughts and words and deeds

May glorify Thy name.


Help us, O Lord, to teach

The beauty of Thy ways,

That yearning souls my find the Christ

And sing aloud His praise.


Let’s pray. Lord, many of us know how hurtful it is to hear words that are negative, nasty, unkind. We also know how sweet and healing kind, encouraging, edifying words are. Help us, even if it has not been the case a time or two or more in the past, to make sure that from now on, our words will be as pleasant and long-lasting as honey. Even when correction is necessary, may our words display love.


By using pleasant, edifying words, You will be pleased, others will be helped, and we will be obedient.


Amen.