We love a good speech. John Chrysostom, bishop of Constantinople in 407, was called the "Golden Mouth" because of his excellent sermons. People who came to hear him speak were advised to bring no money because they would become so intent on his words that they didn’t notice the pick-pockets.
Today, a pastor with excellent oratory skills can sometimes form a mega-church or gain a large following.
We join churches, follow leaders, vote for politicians based on their ability to woo our ear.
A writer long ago lamented the problem of golden speech. He saw no people loyal to God but rather unfaithful ones who lied, flattered and deceived - trusting their own words over any other.
"They say, 'Through our tongues we have power; our lips are our own—who can be our master?'" (Ps 12:2)
There's power in our words. James called the tongue a fire that no man can tame.
And there should be power because God breathed his own life into us. We know the power of God's word. We know, from John, that the Word was in the beginning and it was with God and it was God. (John 1:1)
Our psalmist had harsh words: "May the Lord cut off all flattering lips and the tongue that speaks boastfully." (Ps 12:3)
But he offered words of hope as well. God's words, he reminded us, are pure words - like silver refined in a furnace.
We live today in a cacophony of words, blasted by speeches and enticements to buy, to go, to follow.
God listens to the groans of the afflicted and poor rather than magnificent oratory.
What am I listening to?