Verse: Proverbs 29:19
Servants cannot be corrected by mere words; though they understand, they will not respond.

Yeah, if you grew up in the 90’s you get the title. But anyway. Forgive me if that song’s in your head now.

I was in the middle of my personal devotions when I got Christian’s reminder text about this week’s devotions schedule. Disclaimer – I’m not always so good about personal devotions, but it just happened to be a morning that I did it! I finished what I was reading and took a quick glance through Proverbs 29. Verse 19 immediately stood out. Ok cool, maybe that’s what I’ll focus on, I thought, and turned the page in the book I’ve been working through for devotions. There was the same verse at the top of the page, slightly different translation: “ By mere words a servant is not disciplined, for though he understands he will not respond”. I do love certainty!

Mere words. We often talk about the power of words, and how we need to guard our tongues. Out of the mouth, the heart speaks. And that’s true. But our words can have little value to others, if our words are not backed by substance.

With this particular verse in mind, I went back and reread the chapter. So many more verses jumped out at me, all related to this theme of words paired with actions of some kind. Obedience to wise words. The pitfalls of flattery. Mockery bringing destruction. Giving vent to rage. Lies bringing wickedness. Effective discipline including both words and consequences. Gods words helping us with self-control. Wise words bringing peace.

As a teacher, I see how quickly words are thrown away by students if they don’t feel cared for, or really seen, by the speaker. And how does that feeling of being cared for come about? Actions, more often than not.

When a person observes my character, they certainly won’t ask for (or accept) help or advice if what they observe is poor. We have opportunities all the time to display our character. All day everyday in fact. And when the Holy Spirit provides opportunities to speak into someone else’s life , and that WILL happen, our words will only be effective and life-giving if we have backed those words up with substance in our everyday lives.

I truly believe that we are meant to affect one another. With our whole lives, and the small and large choices we make, we can build a case for or against the God we claim.

Our God, will you help us to build lives of integrity that reflect your wisdom. Help us to dig deep to learn what that is. Thank you for the book of Proverbs, that so practically informs our lives.

Author: Emily Costa