Living Life with God's Irrepressible Joy
Have you ever said something and then regretted it? Or maybe you said a whole string of words and had an ongoing argument with someone that should never have happened. At some point or other, we’ll stick our foot in our mouth and say something we regret or get in an argument with someone over something unimportant.
Sound like something you can relate to?
Sometimes, we realize our mistake right away and can fix it, but at other times we don’t realize when and where our words led us into trouble until someone else points it out to us. Or if we’re in an argument, we’ll hold fast to our side and won’t budge no matter what the opposite side says and does.
Why do we do this? Why does it seem to happen on a nearly daily basis at times? We forget the power of our words and the impact they can make on others.
The Bible has a lot to say about taming the tongue and warning us about the power of our words. A great resource on this topic is James 3. If you’re struggling in this area, take a look at that powerful and blunt passage. But what do words and the use of our tongue have to do with Philippians, our study book?
In Philippians 4, Paul mentions something that always reminds and encourages me to watch my words and be careful with what I say! Here’s what Paul wrote:
“I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.”
I am so glad I’m not Euodia or Syntyche! To go down in history as two arguing women would be horrible! This is why this passage always reminds me to watch my words. You never know who will hear about what you said. Who knows, your next argument might go down in written history for generations upon generations of people to read and know about. That’s the power and impact of words! They have a way of being heard by lots of people.
Now let’s take a look at Euodia and Syntyche. These were probably ordinary women who were either working together on a project or serving in the church. No matter what they were doing their personalities clashed, they exchanged some words, and then decided to keep the argument alive. Nothing unusual or out of the ordinary, really. It happens all the time in our own lives. However, the argument you had with your sister, co-worker, or friend won’t be heard about by the Apostle Paul!
Most likely, when Epaphroditus (remember, the guy who delivered the Philippians’ gift to Paul) gave updates on the health and progress of the church, mentioning the various members, this conflict came up. Paul remembered it when he began writing the letter for the Philippians and felt the Spirit prompting him to address this issue specifically.
Imagine Euodia and Syntyche, they go to church one day and are excited to learn that Paul—their beloved spiritual father—has written the entire congregation a personal letter. Epaphroditus gets up to read this precious gift. And lo and behold, towards the end Paul mentions them—by name!—and asks them to agree. What an embarrassing moment! I’m sure they got up right then and worked out their argument. While these two women might have felt that it was bad enough that Paul knew and wrote about their little spat, how much more embarrassed would they be if they knew that generations of Christians have read about it too!
This is why the story of Euodia and Syntyche always reminds me to be careful about what I say. So the question of the day is, did Paul write about these two women for their benefit or ours? Was it to settle their disagreement or to warn us about the disunity that stems from argument? Something to ponder…
Either way, Paul repeatedly encouraged unity, like-mindedness, and harmony within the church. But arguments, strife, and disagreements definitely don’t foster these things! So let us remember the story of Euodia and Syntyche, the two women who have gone down in biblical history for having an argument (not something positive to be remembered for, by the way). And let us never forget the power of words. After all, you never know who all may hear them!
“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt,
so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”