"Thinking and Speaking"


   One of the ways that we are “made in the image of God” is our ability to think, reason and communicate.  Man’s ability to think about what is around him and who he is makes him unique in all the natural world.  Man alone, among all of the earth’s creatures, possesses the ability to think, reason and talk with his fellows about his ideas and opinions.  Speech is a noble faculty, powerful and purposeful when combined with reason.  Speech combined with the power of reason is one of the things that separates man from the other animals of the earth.  There is no comparison between the chatter of apes, the prattle of parrots, the grunt of pigs, the bark of dogs and the sensible, articulated and intelligent language of human beings.

Speech is one of the most influential things in human experience and expression.  What a person says is capable of eternally affecting those who hear.  It is for this reason that the ancient book, the Bible, ranks words along side works.  There are many things that this old book says about what man says.  “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6).  

Many times it has been the oratory of a single person that has swayed an entire nation.  Think of how Thomas Jefferson influenced the founding of our nation with those important words in the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Think about the importance of the words of Abraham Lincoln as the nation struggled with that great conflict known as the Civil War.  Lincoln boldly and majestically said in the Gettysburg Address, “It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Speech can be used to express high and noble utterances or it can be used to express base and vile things.  Speech can be exercised with dignity, authority and moral power.  It is a blessed and marvelous gift, but it carries with it a responsibility and accountability that we need to recognize.  Consider this unspeakably solemn thought pertaining to what we say.  All of us, including politicians and governmental leaders, should recognize that there is a Judge who will hold us accountable for what we say, good or bad.  “Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.  For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned” (Matthew 12:36-37).  We answer to one who is greater than any earthly judge or jury.

The tongue is a source of much good and encouragement, but it is also a power capable of much evil and malice.  This valuable gift from our Creator can be perverted and can generally be used for evil and error.  Much is said that generates guilt, havoc and hate.  Much involves profanity, filthy talk, slander, anger, cruel utterances, and tale-bearing.  We should pray as the Psalmist did in the Old Testament in this manner, “Set a watch, O Lord, on my mouth; keep the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3).  We need to watch gossip.  We should avoid gossip.  It is unbecoming and unkind.  I understand that in early English, the word “gossip” was “God sip,” meaning that it was related to God.  Now, however, gossip is anything but related to God, being more closely allied with evil and error.  Gossip is so often half-truths that have no resemblance to the true facts and gracious reality.  Usually gossip deals with the wrong half of the half-truth.

Our thoughts, our reasoning should be strongly attracted to truth and the expression of that with grace and kindness.  It is in the light of this that the great thinker and writer Paul said to the Ephesians a word about “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).  The truth can be spoken in such a way as to malign, mutilate and murder another person’s name and reputation.  We should not engage in such speech.  If we do, we need to be reminded that there is a Judge who will hold us accountable for what we say and do.  These ancient words from wise men with much experience should cause us to think about the value of our words, the nature of our reasoning and the things about which we converse with one another.  May this be our determination as individuals and as a civil society, “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6).  

Having said this about our thinking and speaking, I would close with these admonitions regarding what is taking place now in our nation.  We are witnessing now the dismantling of our freedom through the imposition of rules and practices that have nothing to do with freedom, but supposedly keeping us from killing ourselves.  Government is no longer doing what Lincoln expressed at Gettysburg, guaranteeing “a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”  Big government (at all levels of our lives) and big business are guaranteeing our control, even our death, should it so decide.

If you have ideas or insights into matters associated with thinking, reasoning and our communication, I would like to hear from you and will appreciate you sharing your thoughts with me.  You may contact me by email at drjerryhopkins@yahoo.com .  I can also be reached by “snail mail” at Dr. Jerry Hopkins, P. O. Box 1363, Marshall, Texas 75671.  Dr. Jerry Hopkins is a historian and retired university professor