In Psalm 64:3, David compared words to arrows. The wicked, he said, “sharpen their tongue like a sword, and bend their bows to shoot their arrows – bitter words.”
I was reminded of this comparison some years ago when I was given a compound bow and a set of razor-tipped arrows. Because of its power and the sharpness of the arrows, this bow is a lethal weapon. Consequently, I have to be careful how I use it.
As long as I have the bowstring in my hand, I’m in control of the arrow. But the moment I release the string, it’s no longer in my control. The arrow will simply go where it was pointed. I cannot get it back or slow it down. Once I’ve loosed it, it’s on its way to a target.
And that’s exactly how words are. As long as words are in your mind and in your heart, as long as you haven’t spoken them, you’ve got your hand on the bowstring. You’re still in control. You can let the bow back down and not shoot at all. But if you let go of the string – speak the words – the arrow flies. There is no way you can recall words once they’re spoken.
And if your words are ‘deadly arrows’, they may do unintended harm.
Suppose I carry my bow to work some morning when I’m angry and just start shooting arrows in every direction. What happens? When I cool off and look, I see people lying all around with arrows sticking out of them.
Of course, I can run over to the nearest victim and apologize. “Oh, man, I’m sorry. I was upset about something. I didn’t mean to shoot you. I wasn’t even thinking about you. I was just shooting. I’m sorry!”
But the trouble is – you’ve still shot the arrows! I can pull the arrow out and pour oil and wine over the wound, but no matter how much I apologize, I can’t unsay the words that wounded you. You’re still shot, and I have some idle words to give account of to God. Matthew 12:36 – “But I say to you that for every idle word that men speak, they will give an account on the Day of Judgment.”
We can avoid disasters like this by following the principles in God’s Word. Proverbs 15:28 says “The heart of the righteous studies how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.” And James 1:19 tells us to be “slow to speak..”.
So, the next time you’re tempted to “shoot off your mouth”, stop and consider whether your words may become “deadly arrows”. Study the effect of your words before you speak, and then you won’t have to apologize for them later.
Keith Moore, moorelife.org