#GrowWise. A Lesson in Wisdom from Chick-fil-A on the Power of Words


January 10, 2015

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Proverbs 10:13-21 (read the whole chapter)

Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning,
    but a rod is for the back of one who has no sense.

The wise store up knowledge,
    but the mouth of a fool invites ruin.

The wealth of the rich is their fortified city,
    but poverty is the ruin of the poor.

The wages of the righteous is life,
    but the earnings of the wicked are sin and death.

Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life,
    but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.

Whoever conceals hatred with lying lips
    and spreads slander is a fool.

Sin is not ended by multiplying words,
    but the prudent hold their tongues.

The tongue of the righteous is choice silver,
    but the heart of the wicked is of little value.

The lips of the righteous nourish many,
    but fools die for lack of sense.



As we noted yesterday, a major mark if wisdom is the way one responds to criticism, correction discipline and even rebuke. Today we see it again.

Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life,
    but whoever ignores correction leads others astray. v. 17

This verse raises the stakes by reminding us that people will follow our lead. If we are “correctable” we show people the way to life. If not– we lead people astray. It has never hit me before this minute, but I am actually serving many other people when I am welcoming of and responsive to correction.

Today, we see another major theme of the rest of Proverbs; the power of the tongue and the potency of words. Verse 11, which I did not print above, says it beautifully:

The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life.

Our words may be the greatest power we possess. What holds more power than the Word of God? To be created in God’s image means, in some sense, our words are imbued with great power. Our words can create or they can destroy. It brings to mind a text I first worked with a lot when I was a youth pastor (which in a very real sense with four children– I remain).  ;0)

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs that it may benefit all who listen. Ephesians 4:29. 

Unwholesome talk tears people down, whether it is directed at them or not. Gossip tears people down, even if it seems satisfying at the moment. Sarcasm tears people down. Negativity tears people down. The New Testament writer, James, has quite a bit to say about the power of the tongue and the potency of words. Consider this example.

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. James 1:26

Words of encouragement build people up. Words of affirmation and blessing build people up. Calling people by their name builds people up. Our words can create a context of life or an environment of death. Our every word matters.

At most restaurants when an employee serves you in some way and you thank them, they typically say something like, “No problem.” Really? What does that mean? Are you saying it was not a problem to do your job? And those two words are not even great words. “No,” and “problem” are both less than stellar words. In contrast, consider Chick Fil A. When you say thank you for an act of service there, you know what they say; “My pleasure.” Those two little words brighten up the room. Every time they say it (and they say it a lot) it reinforces to the customer that service is a pleasure. Every time they say it it reinforces to the employee that service is a privilege. Words create worlds.

So the question: How can we extrapolate this little example in twenty other situations in our every day lives?

Your turn. Share an idea in the comments below.

I’ll see you tomorrow in Proverbs 10.


J.D. Walt writes daily for Seedbed’s Daily Text. He serves as Seedbed’s Sower in Chief. Follow him @jdwalt on Twitter or email him at jd.walt@seedbed.com.

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Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.


  1. As a special education teacher I try to respond to my students with similar phrases (“My pleasure”, “It was a joy”, “I’m here for you”…) when they need help on assignments. They receive SO much negativity in mainstream classrooms it seems like a simple way to uplift them and make them feel special while in my room. My hope is that they are are able to carry some of that out into their day.

  2. JD….one way healthcare has improved is with the Studer method of rounding on patients. As a manager, going into the room and asking about their experience….actively listening and responding by saying,”Is there anything I can do for you now? I have the time.” Patients appreciate this and over time, these words and the follow through with appropriate action do work to create and/or change a culture.

  3. For many years after paying and a clerk or waitress says “have a nice day” my reply has been “You have a nice forever.” Some of them “get it” instantly. Many others laugh and say, “That’s a good one. I’ll remember that.” My follow-up, time permitting is something like “It’s possible, you know”? That elicits all types of responses from “I planning on it” to “never thought about that.”