With their words, the godless destroy their friends, but knowledge will rescue the righteous….It is foolish to belittle one’s neighbor. A sensible person keeps quiet….A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare….Wise words are like deep waters. Wisdom flows from the wise like a bubbling brook. (Proverbs 11:9,12, 15:1, 18:4 NLT)
I am currently teaching on “Controlling Our Tongue” at Christ Presbyterian Church in Houston. Here are some more excerpts that I’ve used in counseling and prison ministry.
Our Words Can Bless or Hurt Others
The saying goes, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” That’s wrong. Many people are victims of verbal abuse. Hurtful words spoken to us by loved ones are like stones hurled at our heart, mind, and soul. It can take years for the Lord to heal the wounds caused by hurtful words. Sadly, people who have been injured by words often repeat the pattern and injure others. People should forgive us when we hurt them, but we can’t retrieve our words. Others may never forget what we have said. If our words are uplifting, people treasure them and are refreshed. If our words cause pain, people are wounded in the family, the church, and the workplace.
The T-H-I-N-K Filter for Conversation
In our last post, we began a study, asking God the Holy Spirit to help us speak only what is True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary, and Kind. This is a good outline for some of the Bible’s teaching on our talking. You can read THINK Before Speaking.
Speak Only What is Helpful
15:4 The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.
15:26 The Lord detests the thoughts of the wicked, but gracious words are pure in His sight.
16:24 Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
20:15 Gold there is, and rubies in abundance, but lips that speak knowledge are a rare jewel.
Ephesians 4:29 in the NIV says to speak only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
Other translations are useful also:
ESV Speak only what is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
TLB Say only what is good and helpful to give others a blessing.
MSG Watch the way you talk. Say only what helps, each word a gift.
NCV Say what people need—words that will help others become stronger. Then what you say will do good to those who listen to you.
NLT Let everything you say be good and helpful to encourage those who hear you.
A Pivotal Passage
1 Thessalonians 5:13-15 says: Live in peace with each other….Warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.
We are to love, respect, and maintain peace with other believers, never retaliating or trying to get even when we are hurt by others. We are to do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.1 And we are to demonstrate the Holy Spirit’s fruit of patience and forbearance when others annoy and hassle us.
Then Paul mentions three kinds of people and how we are to treat them
|People Who Are||We Help Them as we|
|Lazy, freeloaders, disruptive, disorderly, irresponsible, undisciplined||Warn, instruct, correct, admonish them in love|
|Discouraged, disheartened, fearful, timid||Encourage, cheer, comfort, console them|
|Weak, sick, exhausted||Assist, support, sustain, uphold, provide tender care for them|
Helping other people requires that we understand them, their past and present situations, and what matters to them, so that we don’t say the wrong thing at the wrong time. Each human being has been created by God in His image and likeness so they are precious to the Lord. We don’t want to hurt them unnecessarily. Helping requires listening to people, not criticizing them, remembering that many people have not had the advantages that we’ve had. We need to admit our own mistakes to understand the mistakes of others. Filmmaker Wayne Gerard Lionel Trotman said: “Imagine how many suicide victims would still be with us, if only the right person said the right thing at the right time.”
Speak Only What is Inspiring
Proverbs 16:21-24 The wise in heart are called discerning, and gracious words promote instruction. Prudence is a fountain of life, but folly brings punishment to fools. The hearts of the wise make their mouths prudent, and their lips promote instruction. Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
Colossians 4:5-6 Be wise in the way you act….Make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
Hebrews 10:24-25 Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day of Christ’s return approaching.
Romans 15:5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The word inspire does not appear in the Bible but God commands us to speak life-giving, sweet, nourishing, wise, healing, gracious, up-building, and encouraging words throughout the Scriptures.
Prayer: Our Heavenly Father, thank you for rescuing us from the kingdom of darkness and transferring us into Jesus’ Kingdom. He purchased our freedom, forgave all our sins, and put His Holy Spirit in us. Make us more and more like You. Help us to weigh our words before speaking and not let our mouths gush foolishness or evil. Keep us from saying whatever is not right, holy, or loving. Create in us clean hearts, thoughts, actions, and speaking. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.2
To be continued
Notes (various Bible translations used): 1 Gal 6:10. 2 Prayer draws on Col 1:13-14; Prov 15:2,28, Psalm 51:10.