My father once gave me a profound piece of advice. He told me that words are like toothpaste. Once toothpaste is out of the tube, no matter how hard you try, you can't get it back in.
Recently, God has been really challenging me on how I use my words. Words are powerful. In the beginning, God spoke words and what he spoke came into being. Our words can damage and they can build up. The Bible is very clear on what types of words you should be using:
They are to be considered
Matthew 12:36-37 says that "everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned." That is a strong statement. It's actually really troubling. How many empty words have I spoken? Which words will acquit me and which will condemn me?
They are to give life and to build people
The Bible recognises the importance of words in people's lives. They can renew, encourage and prosper people. Conversely they can be damaging and hurtful. Ephesians 4:29, Proverbs 25:15, 1 Peter 3:9 are all helpful (read them here), but I think Proverbs 15:4 puts it beautifully:
Gentle words are a tree of life;They should have value
a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.
Proverbs 11:11 tells us how we as Godly citizens can prosper a city. If, however, we are careless with our words we can bring destruction. If we speak with consideration our words can prosper a whole city. I think that's amazing.
They should be pure
I like a poo joke as much as the next man. And although ruling them out entirely may be a bit extreme (the Bible does contains some scatological humour), I need to keep my words as pure as possible. Philippians 4:8 says how we should think on things that are right and pure. If we speak of things that are impure, we're obviously thinking about them too. Ephesians 5:4 also warns against crude jokes and stories.
They should be thankful
The last verse from Ephesians leads me onto this one quite nicely. It talks about how our talk, instead of being crude, should be full of thanks and praises to God.
The hard thing is going to be remembering this when I go to open my mouth. Does anyone have any advice on how to do this? Maybe I should write it on my hand.
I'll leave you with a final verse from James:
If you claim to be religious but don't control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.Yikes!
- Do you have stories of how words have been a powerful force in your life (either positively or negatively)?
- What advice do you have about taming your tongue (vows of silence, swear jars, etc.)?
- What other things should we consider when using our tongues?