Who likes to have the last word in an argument? I boldly put up my hand. I wouldn’t say that I do so with pride.
There was a time, way back in my teacher days, when I got involved in a spat with a pupil. I think that we have both gone beyond the point of reasoned argument. It was all about getting the last word and neither of us was about to surrender. I don’t remember what it was about, or who won, but I remember afterwards, when the pupils had left the class, one pupil remained behind. Her name was Katherine and she helped me with running the Scripture Union.
“Wow,” she said, “That was a wonderful spat! You, and he, were magnificent. You just wouldn’t let him have the last word, would you? Would it have hurt that much to walk away?”
And there you have it! God’s word spoken from someone much younger than me who I was supposed to be mentoring. It was not the best witness, but I remember it and times when I desperately want that last word, Katherine’s words come to mind.
I have been reading my way through the life of Elisha. There has been a famine. It was a bad one. There had been a lot of ugliness. If you want to find out what is in the human heart just put people through a hard time. What is in the heart will come to the surface. The king was on the brink of surrender. Elisha brought comfort and assured the king,
“Hear the word of the Lord. This is what the Lord says: About this time tomorrow, a seah of the finest flour will sell for a shekel and two seahs of barley for a shekel at the gate of Samaria.” (2 Kings 7:1)
It did not look as if it were possible. The king was leaning on one of his officers, who voiced his doubt.
“Look, even if the Lord should open the floodgates of the heavens, could this happen?” (2 Kings 7:2)
God doesn’t have problems with people speaking out their honest doubts, but this was not what the man was doing. It wasn’t genuine perplexity about the impossibility of it, it was mockery. He was pouring contempt into every word. He was saying God was not powerful enough to do such a miracle so swiftly. Food falling down from heaven was God’s only option because they were surrounded by the enemy – as if He could do that. Elisha was talking nonsense.
The officer’s words spoken were not part of a private conversation between him and Elisha. They were spoken in the presence the king and in the hearing of however many people were standing nearby.
Words have power. Godly conversation matters. What I say, and what I hear and repeat, has the potential to destroy another’s faith, or plant in them a seed to unbelief. That’s what the officer was doing. He was destroying faith with his words and planting seeds of unbelief.
Elisha stepped into the conversation to say again that the famine would end, adding that the officer would see it but not taste it.
“You will see it with your own eyes,” answered Elisha, “but you will not eat any of it!” (2 Kings 7:2)
Elisha had the last word – he didn’t leave the man’s mockery to be the last word.
That challenges me. There are some last words that we cannot surrender to the enemy. There are times when leaving the enemy to have the last word echoing in people’s ears is the wrong thing to so. The last word spoken in the encounter between Elisha and the officer was a word of truth.
Many of my conversations are not with other people. I have a lively interaction of comments in my head. I say things to myself. Sometimes what I tell myself is truth, but often it’s not. It may not be a destructive lie but sometimes it falls short of the truth God wants me to know. Whether I’m talking to myself or to another person, I need to make sure the last word, the one that echoes in my ears is truth.
Those last words spoken in any conversation matter - let us leave people with words of faith.