There is power in speech – God spoke the universe into existence through words, and we have the ability to encourage or wound other people by the choice of our words and the manner in which we deliver them. We can use speech to educate, inform, direct, lead, influence, and share our innermost thoughts. Speech can be used persuasively coax people to act or to selfishly manipulate others into a contrived outcome.
God speaks to us in many ways: His revealed Word, the scriptures (Psalm 19:7-9); through the evidence of creation (Psalm 19:1-6; Romans 1:20); by making us in His image (Gen. 1:27).
Through His speech to us, we learn about Him and what is important to Him. We also learn that He has consistent attributes, and a predictability to His character.
Our speech can be ruled by the passion of separation from God due to sin (unregenerate heart), or characterized by a heart that has been transformed through Salvation and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.
James chapter three offers insight into our speech:
Now if we put the bits into the horses’ mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well. Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires. So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh.
To walk worthy, we must learn to control our tongues and our speech. How can we do that?
Part of the process is to obey the directions and commandments of God. Walking in obedience offers us blessings and walking in disobedience leads to curses (Deut 28). When we do sin, we should confess (1 John 1:9; Proverbs 28:13; and repent (Ps 32:5; 2 Pet. 3:9; Rom. 10:9; Acts 17:30) to start fresh (Ps 51:10; Col. 3:1-17)
Additionally, we must recognize that just like James said in Chapter 3, verse 11, our mouths are like springs – flowing from the inside to the outside and whatever we hold inside will become obvious through our speech. Look at these warnings delivered by Jesus to the Pharisees:
- Matthew 23:25-28 — “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
- Luke 11:39 — And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness.
We need to be diligent to guard our hearts from sin, and then also guard our mouths from uttering things that are hurtful, disrespectful or deceitful. We’re all capabable of making poor choices when tempted and we only grow our discipline by testing; therefore, we can expect to be tested regularly.
Proverbs 4:24 reminds us to “Put away from you a deceitful mouth and put devious speech far from you”, and Psalm 19:14 states “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (ESV)
Walk Worthy, Trailmen!
Want more? Here are some additional verses about using our speech to be encouraging and kind instead of hurtful:
- Proverbs 12:18 ESV “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
- James 1:26 ESV “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.”
- Proverbs 15:1 ESV “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
- Proverbs 18:21 ESV “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”
- Proverbs 21:23 ESV “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.”
- Luke 6:45 ESV “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”
- Ephesians 4:29 ESV “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
- Matthew 18:15 ESV “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.”
- Proverbs 15:4 ESV “A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.”
- Psalm 34:13 ESV “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.”
- Proverbs 16:24 ESV “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.”