One night, a woman woke up in the middle of the night. She thought she heard a noise downstairs. She nudged her husband and whispered, "Wake up, wake up! I think there are burglars in our kitchen!"
Her husband sleepily asked, "How do you know?”
She told him: “I heard someone open the fridge. I think they're eating my leftover beef stew." Her husband was not being careful with his words. Without thinking, this idiot said: "That'll teach them!" No wonder his wife did not speak to him for several days!
Whether you are a husband or a wife, a kid or a grown-up, most of us struggle with “hoof and mouth” disease. Quite often, our mouths are in gear before our brains are! Words can destroy careers. Words can ruin marriages. Words can wreck relationships, reputations, and so many things. Words can damage children for life. Words can incite riots, cause murders, and start wars. Proverbs 18:21 says, "The tongue has the power of life and death…”
In our quest to let God have all of us, we have to talk about the tongue. James 1:26 says: “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.” If we are going to be fully-devoted followers of Christ, our tongues and our speech need be yielded to God too. So, this week, here are seven admonitions from the Scriptures that tell how God wants us to speak:
First, speak careful words. In Matthew 12:36, our Lord said that one day “men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.” So, watch what you say, using well-chosen, well-considered words. Proverbs 13:3 says: “He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.”
Words can do great harm when they are irresponsible and thoughtless. Proverbs 12:18: “Reckless words pierce like a sword…” One of my Platitudes says: “Your tongue is in a wet place—be careful that it does not slip and hurt somebody.” Your words can destroy a relationship, a marriage, a job, and the heart of a child. We need to learn tact, discretion, and wisdom with our words. A good prayer might be from Psalms 141:3: “Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.”
Second, speak edifying words. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians (4:29): “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
Use your vocabulary, your tone of voice, and the topics to help and improve people’s lives. Your words can change a heart, affect a life, and make all the difference in the world to a person. Learn how to encourage, inspire, and edify with your words. That is why Paul told the Colossian church (3:8): “But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.”
Our words affect our children in profound ways. Here is what I know:
If a child hears words of criticism, that child learns to be condemning.
If a child hears words of hostility, that child learns to be angry.
If a child hears words of jealousy, that child learns to be greedy.
If a child hears words of encouragement, that child learns be confident.
If a child hears words of gratitude, that child learns to be appreciative.
If a child hears words of kindness, that child learns to love.
If a child hears words of recognition, that child learns it is good to have a goal.
If a child hears words of honesty, that child learns to tell the truth.
If a child hears words of fairness, that child learns justice.
If a child hears words of approval, that child learns to like himself.
If a child hears words of faith, that child learns to seek God.
Third, speak healing words. Today many people carry a heavy burden. Many people have problems with bills, jobs, marriages, families, their business, their health, and so many things. So, when you speak, let your words bring calm, comfort, and encouragement to others. Let your words show patience, forbearance, love, and healing.
Proverbs 12:18 says: “…the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 16:24 says: “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Proverbs 25:13 says: “Like the coolness of snow at harvest time is a trustworthy messenger to those who send him; he refreshes the spirit of his masters.”
So, speak words that refresh weary hearts. Use your words to give hope and help to your neighbors and friends. Affirm what your spouse and your family when they are doing good. Share the Good News about God’s love to everyone you meet!
Fourth, speak gracious words. When our words are not Spirit-controlled, great damage can be done to your marriage, your family, your career, and to those around you. That is why you need to obey Colossians 4:6: “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt…”
Develop the habit of speaking with grace. Although you may be rightfully angry, justly offended, and within your rights to cut a person down to size with your words, don’t do it! Err on the side of grace. Believe the best about people. Give people the benefit of the doubt.
Fifth, speak few words. Another Plattitude says: "A closed mouth gathers no foot." Proverbs 1:5says: “let the wise listen and add to their learning” so listen before you talk.
Foolish people are always talking. Proverbs 12:23: “the heart of fools blurts out folly.” Proverbs 18:2: “A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions.”
But contrast the fool with the wise person and their tongue. Proverbs 10:19: “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.” Proverbs 17:27-28 “A man of knowledge uses words with restraint…even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.”
Just because God gave you a mouth doesn’t mean you have to use it all the time. Talk less and listen more. God gave you one mouth and two ears. I think that means He wants you to listen twice as much as you talk! Listening is how we become less and less self-absorbed. When we learn to talk less and listen more, we can grow more in our walk with God.
Sixth, speak appropriate words. Proverbs 10:32 says: “The lips of the righteous know what is fitting, but the mouth of the wicked only what is perverse.” Proverbs 25:11says: “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”
How can you tell what is appropriate? Here is another acrostic. It spells out the word “THINK.” The letter “T” reminds me to ask: Is it true? “H” reminds me to ask: Is it helpful? “I” reminds me to ask: Is it inspiring? For “N”, I asked Is it needed? And for the letter “K” I ask myself: Is what I am about to say kind?
There are two verses that are back to back. Proverbs 26:4: “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself.” The very next verse (5) says: “Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.” At first, these verses seem contradictory to each other. But they actually compliment one another. Simply put, we have to ascertain whether some one is wise or foolish, whether they will listen or not. Then we will know what is appropriate.
That means we have to consider the setting before we say something. In John 16:12, Jesus told to His disciples: “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.” Sometimes people can’t handle information or are not ready. We also need to consider whether something needs to be said. Many times, it doesn’t! Proverbs 18:8 says: “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts.” And we need to consider whether we have the reputation and ethos to share it with that person.
Seventh, speak wise words. When you talk, pick words and topics that are wise. Choose vocabulary and topics that are wholesome, moral, Christ-centered, and have the wisdom of the ages. Proverbs 10:31: “The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom, but a perverse tongue will be cut out.” Proverbs 15:7: “The lips of the wise spread knowledge; not so the hearts of fools.”
In Stephen A. Ambrose's book, Band of Brothers is the story of the World War II combat experiences of “Easy Company” of 101st Airborne. They were led by Major Dick Winters.
Easy Company was made up of young men from all over the United States, all of whom had different backgrounds, religions, life experiences, and personality types. Despite these differences, Major Winters successfully led these men. They parachuted behind enemy lines on D-Day and destroyed a German artillery nest on Utah Beach. Major Winters fought by their side in the freezing cold of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge. Near the end of the war, Major Winters led his men up to Adolf Hitler's mountainside retreat, the Eagle's Nest near Berchtesgaden, and occupied it until they were relieved by others.
In 1945, one wounded Easy Company veteran wrote to Major Winters from his hospital bed: "You are loved and will never be forgotten by any soldier who ever served under you." What made Dick Winters so loved and such an effective leader? Certainly, he was brave and heroic. But one of his great strengths was his words!
Folks, our words must honor the Lord! So, honor with your every word, your every sentence, and your every conversation. Make Psalm 17:3 your promise to God: “I have resolved that my mouth will not sin.” Use your words to build up, encourage, and inspire! God will bless you for it!
I love being your pastor!
Pastor Mark Platt