Spiritual Words Can Be Like Shotguns in the Hands of Babies


The more I read the Bible, the more I am aware that we need to choose our spiritual words with care. This is because there is a vast spiritual world out there which is bigger, vaster and more real than than our physical world.  The spiritual world is eternal, i.e. it goes on forever.  In contrast, our physical world exists for only a short time.  A body can die or be killed, but this will not affect how long the soul lasts:

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
Matthew 10:28 

Our words and actions can have spiritual impact on others - whether positive or negative:

“If anyone causes one of these little ones - those who believe in me - to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea.  If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out.
Mark 9:42-43  

I am not trying to "preach fire and brimstone" here when God's message through Jesus is one of love and redemption.  What I am trying to do with these admittedly rather scary verses above is to show how big, how vast the spiritual world is compared to the physical world of today. Words we use in this physical world could have an impact on someone's spirituality.  The simplest example I can think of is the missionary who brings the word of God to someone who hasn't heard, or hasn't opened themselves to hearing before.  There are other more subtle examples of course, both positive and negative.

If God's kingdom really exists (Christians believe it does) then are atheists putting the long-term health of their souls and those of others, at risk by preaching an opposing message? This is not a question for me to judge (nor one I would ever, ever want to judge), but instead it is for God to judge.  However, posing the question highlights the need for all of us to choose our spiritual words with care.  If indeed words spoken in the physical world of today can have some impact, however slight, on our very souls, then spiritual words can be like shotguns in the hands of babies.  For our understanding of the spiritual world is a lot more limited in many ways than the understanding of our physical world.  We know not fully what we are talking about when we talk about the spiritual world.  We can infer a lot from the Bible, but our inferences are not the same as seeing clearly. 

Indeed, I personally believe that I am 'shooting myself in the foot' every time I pray this section of the Lord's Prayer:

"And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors."
Matthew 6:12

Really? Do I really want God to forgive me to the same (miserly) extent as I have forgiven those who have wronged me?  Even the most forgiving person in the world (definitely not me!) does not have the same level of forgiveness as God.  Instead, if I am being truly honest, I hope that God will forgive me to a much greater extent than I forgive those who have wronged me.  However, saying the prayer as it stands is helpful in allowing us to see how vast God's forgiveness is and how Jesus paid it all for our sins.  Our struggle to forgive others then seems ridiculous - a drop in the bucket compared to the vastness of Jesus dying on the cross.

Of course, we should not fall into the trap of feeling 'paralyzed' by the enormity of the possible impact of spiritual words and therefore become too scared to say anything at all on spiritual matters.  It is simply that we need to choose our words carefully. Asking God for guidance on this issue is one of the best things we can do.  After all, careful spiritual words come directly from God; it is our blunders that come from ourselves. 

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