Game. Set. Match.
I grew up playing tennis and have always enjoyed the sport. Shortly after Jonathan and I got married, I thought it would be fun to head to our local tennis courts and play a match or two. Jonathan knew the basics and was willing to humor my competitive nature, so off we went one Saturday afternoon. It didn’t take me very long to realize that Jonathan’s tennis playing abilities left something to be desired. His unspoken goal seemed to be to simply hit the tennis ball as hard as he could - ignoring all boundaries on the court. Not surprisingly, the tennis balls he hit landed outside of the court...and some outside of the fence altogether resulting in a quick and miserably boring “game, set, match.” And even as competitive as I am, I didn’t enjoy gaining victory so easily. Not to mention that we spent more time chasing tennis balls than actually playing tennis. I remember trying to convince him that success at tennis was more dependent on focus and self-control than strictly on power itself. Let’s just say he didn’t buy into that too much and we haven’t played a lot of tennis since. We have, however, gotten some good laughs at the ridiculousness of that day.
Recently the Lord reminded me of that story to teach me a convicting lesson on my words. See often times I treat my words a lot like Jonathan treated that tennis ball - I toss them out there carelessly, without acknowledging boundaries or exercising restraint. I enjoy the temporary pleasure of “getting something off my chest” and fail to see the more devastating long-term effects they may have. I speak from a quick wit without acknowledging that those words are sure to land outside of the boundaries the Lord has set for me in the Scriptures. But the boundaries are there for a reason. Just like a tennis court has lines to identify the boundaries of play, the Lord has given us His Word as a way of establishing boundaries for the Christian life. And His Word is clear on what our words should sound like:
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29
“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Colossians 4:6
“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak.” Matthew 12:36
“But no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” James 3:8-10
Words are not meant to be thrust out with force - but rather they should be considered, prayed over and held up to the measure of scripture. When we send words flying “out of bounds” we are more likely to spend our time chasing those words to try to get them back. But unlike a rogue tennis ball that can be collected and brought back into play, careless words once spoken are out there for good - wreaking havoc in relationships and hurting our Christian influence with others.
And much like the game of tennis, self-control is key. When we take time to carefully weigh our words before serving them to others, they’re more likely to land within the boundaries the Lord has set for us. They’re more likely to bring life and bear fruit. And less likely to bring hurt and regret. A great little lesson for weighing our words is to THINK:
Are my words True?
Are they Helpful?
Are they Inspiring?
Are they Necessary?
Are they Kind?
If the answer to any of these questions is no, those words are better left “unserved” - or unsaid. Instead, let’s choose to replace those words with words of truth and encouragement - words spoken in love with the intent to build up or help.
Those are words that land in bounds. Those are words that keep the game in play. Those are words that bring about a victory.
Game. Set. Match.