Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 2, 1967
NUMBER 38, PAGE 4-5a

"Apples Of Gold "


"The reason Elbert said 'to whom' instead of 'to who' is because he had went to night school." This sage observation somehow epitomizes the general attitude toward one who tries to be precise in his choice of words. To an early American Indian a grunted "ugh" could convey a wide variety of meanings, depending on the time, circumstances, bodily posture, tonal inflections of the one doing the "ughing." But a more literate and sophisticated society demands more articulate communication. Words are the working tools of all who teach. A carpenter works with saw and hammer; a brick mason works with trowel and plumb-line; a road builder works with caterpillar tractor and earthmover. But a teacher works with words. By words he seeks to influence men for truth and righteousness, to build character, to set lives in the pathway of eternal happiness. Job's friend, Eliphaz, said to him, "Thy words have upholden him that was falling, And thou hast made firm the feeble knees. " (Job 4:4)

But words are the mere vehicles of thought. And if our thoughts and ideas are clear and unclouded in our own minds, we will usually have little difficulty "getting through" to others. Even colloquialisms and grammatical crudities are quite intelligible to others IF what we are trying to say is clear to us. Will Rogers was once twitted about saying "ain't." It was during the Great Depression, when many men with Ph. D. degrees would gladly have worked as grease monkeys in filling stations or as shoe-shine boys. Will responded, "I know lots of people who don't say 'ain't' who ain't eatin'. " And Winston Churchill is reported to have said, "Refusing to end a sentence with a preposition is the kind of arrant nonsense up with which I do not intend to put." We like the story of the small boy who called downstairs to his mother and asked her to come up and read him a bed-time story. But when he saw the book she brought he asked, "Why did you bring the book I didn't want to be read to out of up for?"

"A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver," is the way the inspired writer of Proverbs 25:11 summarized the right utterance at the right time. Daniel Webster once said, "If we work in marble, it will perish; if we work upon brass, time will efface it; if we rear temples, they will tumble into dust; but if we work upon our immortal minds, and instill into them just principles, we are engraving upon tablets which no time will efface." And the tools of our engraving are words, those vehicles of thought.

All of which but emphasizes Paul's statement to the Colossians, "Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how ye ought to answer every man." (4:6) This comes to the heart of the problem---that "knowing how ye ought to answer." And that can never come without study and thought and meditation. We cannot have the right "words" until we have the right "thoughts". And we cannot have the right thoughts without diligent effort. If it be true that "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh," it is also true that "as he thinketh in his heart, so is he." There is one tremendous factor in our favor here: the conscious mind can think of only one thing at a time; it cannot think success and failure simultaneously. It cannot think good and evil at the same moment; it cannot think happiness and misery in the same breath or in concert.

If, then, our speech is to "be always with grace," we must see to it that our thoughts are of the same order. How can we know how we "ought to answer every man" who asks us about the church, for instance, if we ourselves have given little or no thought to the subject? How can we show a man the error of Catholicism or Methodism if we have not thought clearly on these things ourselves? How can we help one of our own brethren find his way out of the confusion of "direct operation of the Holy Spirit" if our own thinking and knowledge of the subject are hazy and uncertain? How can we really be of much help in persuading an alien to become a Christian if our own understanding of Christianity is weak and sectarian and ineffective? Those early disciples were often poor and illiterate and probably many of them were slow of speech and inarticulate; but there was one area where they were NOT tongue-tied or speechless. There was one subject on which they could speak with glowing enthusiasm and compelling fervor. In their own lives they had "experienced" (we use the word advisedly) Christ. He was as much a part of their lives as their own breathing and heart-beat. Paul could speak with absolute certainty: "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day." When any man has that kind of assurance and that positive certitude, he can speak with authority and eloquence. His grammar may be rough, his syntax may be outrageous, but his message will be beautifully clear and unambiguous! Like "apples of gold in pictures of silver" his words will be fitly spoken and will be understood. For he will speak that which he knows and understands himself. No matter how much trouble others may have in making themselves understood, the man who has "been with Jesus" will get his message across.

-F. Y. T.