It can be easy to get caught up in the minutiae that make up most of our days. They nibble away through each hour telling us that we’ll have time later to make that phone call or visit, write that letter or apology. We got caught up in the dailyness of life, of making our points as we can, of wanting to be heard, and sometimes in getting the last word.
Some of us have no need to “have the last word” as they say. We keep our dearest opinions to ourselves and play our cards close to the chest, but even so there can be times when we feel so strongly that we step out of that role and attempt it. And it seems that increasingly often more and more people are seeking to have that last word, to insist on their opinion or right, but what does that goal mean?
According to the Collins dictionary, it means the following:
“If someone has the last word or the final word in a discussion, argument, or disagreement, they are the one who wins it or who makes the final decision.”Collins Dictionary
This desire or tendency does not seem to be one we need to be taught. It appears to be part of the human DNA since we so often see it in young children as they play together or compete for the toy they want or the person’s attention they seek. Parents and teachers seek to train us to manage that tendency and it seems to work for some, but others are still going strong by their teenage years and beyond. A quick stop at any social media site or news outlet will show you that we live in a time when winning at any or all costs is all that matters to some (even if winning means destroying someone or something else more precious than the thing being fought for).
Are we so lost in the minutiae that we have forgotten the power we wield when we put those “last words” out there?
Are the words we speak or shout at others, ones that we would be able to hear and find some value in them? Would they cause us to think more deeply, consider a new perspective, alter an old bias or would they stoke the embers of old wounds, prejudices, and anger that would produce in us the same response we hate so much from someone else that is directed toward us?
Have we forgotten that we will need to give an account for our words – if not in this life, in the one hereafter? We so easily toss them around at times that it would seem we very well may have forgotten that reality.
Matthew’s Gospel gives us a clear reminder:
“But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.”Matthew 12:36 (NIV)
We may well have forgotten that what falls from our lips speaks to what fills our hearts and swirls around in our minds.
We can be brought to immediate attention by the last words of someone who is leaving us either for some assignment or in death. It is then that we will often pause to consider what we most want to say. We don’t want to miss reminding that person that we love them or perhaps that we are sorry for something that we have not addressed before that moment. But it is much harder to remember that none of us can say or know when what we say will be the last words someone else will hear. Whatever we may say at such a time will likely be remembered for longer than we might imagine.
If we seek a model for someone who made every word count, every word matter, and had no regrets when his last words came, surely, they would be that of Jesus. Every Lenten season, every Good Friday, messages focus on the last words He spoke as He hung on the cross. But we must not forget that He knew that his time was short and over and over again, Jesus spoke the words that He wanted us to know mattered. He spoke the words He wanted us to know were the guideposts for how we were to live when He no longer walked the earth. They pointed the way that He knew we would stumble in without his help. Those last words from the cross, those final words said so long ago are ones that we still savor, but in the years before that one we can glean so much wisdom and discernment for how, when, and what words we choose to say or write and whether they merit the value of being the last words we will ever be known for.
Perhaps if we immerse ourselves more in Him and his words the need to be right and win in every discussion and argument can be harnessed and brought into subjection. And if we can do that, then our words will speak life instead of death to the person hearing or reading them.
“The words you read in Scripture aren’t just encouraging or inspiring. Those descriptions of heaven aren’t just colorful phrases. Those teachings of Jesus aren’t just good ideas or principles. They are real life, both now and to come.”Margaret Feinberg in The Sacred Echo
If we immerse ourselves in his words, they will begin to echo in our hearts and minds and then we may hope to have our words align more with his words, our heart beat with things that matter most to Him, and we will learn when we are to be silent, when we are to speak, and when we are to stand for the cause of his kingdom.