Today’s devotion is based on 1 Corinthians 14.
“So if you speak in a way no one can understand,
what’s the point of opening your mouth?”
1 Corinthians 9:10, MSG
I spent three years in graduate school, studying the art of rhetoric and composition. Every week I joined my colleagues to absorb another novel or dissect a famous speech. We were a serious group of word lovers, and we studied the finest literature the world has to offer.
Then we’d work on our own projects.
I noticed that whenever I reviewed my colleagues’ writing, their sentences were long, complex constructions. And the words they used were usually multi-syllabic. Basically, they liked to use a bunch of big words.
So I learned to follow suit.
During those years of serious study, I wrote a lot of papers. And I followed the pattern of higher academia — a verbose writing style that was meant to sound smart and impressive.
Looking at those papers now, however, I don’t think they sound very smart. Just pretentious.
I’m grateful for everything I learned in my graduate program, but once I finished my degree, I had to re-train my brain how to write normal. Because simple, plain language is always better. Which is why I love this passage in 1 Corinthians.
Paul says it’s pointless to speak in such a way that no one can understand. I know he’s talking about certain spiritual gifts here, but I think his point is valid and applicable to speakers and writers too. Super fancy speech doesn’t edify anyone if they can’t understand what the speaker is trying to say. And most of the time, that kind of a fancy language is used to draw attention to the writer more than the message.
As a speaker and writer, I decided early on that I don’t want to sound impressive, I want to sound real. And I want my words to point others to Christ, not myself.