The Value of How We Say What We SayJune 10, 2022 - 12:00 am
A word fitly spoken
is like apples of gold in a setting of silver. — Proverbs 25:11 (ESV)
We continue with devotional thoughts from the Book of Proverbs every Friday. One of the 11 books in the Torah known as the Ketuvim, Hebrew for “writings,” Proverbs is part of the “wisdom tradition,” which also includes Job and Ecclesiastes.
I was at the supermarket waiting in line at the meat counter. The store was especially busy because it was Thursday, always the busiest day at the supermarket because everyone is buying whatever they need for Shabbat.
Usually, two workers helped customers. Today, for whatever reason, there was only one. With a long line of customers standing around, people started getting impatient. A few started complaining about the service. One woman tried to convince everyone that she was in the biggest rush and we should all let her go ahead of us.
While the situation was escalating, I looked over to my left and made eye contact with an elderly man with a long white beard. He looked at me and smiled. “We’re waiting in line for meat,” he said loud enough for everyone to hear. Suddenly, the mood at the meat counter changed completely. Everyone started telling stories about the hardship and poverty that they, their parents, or their grandparents went through over the past century.
The Value of How We Say What We Say
Proverbs teaches us, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” But what does that mean, “apples of gold in a setting of silver”?
Both phrases describe our words. The “setting of silver” describes the outward appearance of our words. The deeper meaning of our words is what is inside: “the apples of gold.” In other words, the timing and manner of what is said often conveys more wisdom than the words themselves.
I thought of this verse as I reflected on what happened at the meat counter. There was an important lesson for us to learn about the value of how we say what we say. All the man said was, “We’re waiting in line for meat.” He didn’t offer any deep or complicated words of wisdom. He didn’t rebuke anyone for their impatient behaviour.
He made a simple statement that, on the surface, is nothing more than a description of what we were all doing. What made his words so effective and powerful was the way he said them, when he said them, and the lesson he was teaching.
Your turn: Have you ever been inspired by simple words spoken just the right way at just the right time? Let’s think about how and when we say what we say to others.