“When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.” (Proverbs 10:19, NIV)
Have you ever been in a discussion or an argument with someone and you can feel yourself getting close to the line of saying too much? You know if the conversation continues you will end up saying more than you want to, and the outcome of that is almost always sinful.
The temptation to say too much attacks me primarily in two ways: gossip and angry words. Sometimes when Corinne and I argue (yes, we argue, too), I can feel my temper start to rise, and I know if I don’t back out I’m going to say something I will regret later. It’s like I can see myself driving closer and closer to the side of the cliff, and if I don’t turn the wheel, I’ll go right off the edge. I need to stop my words before I get to that point! It’s always better to call a timeout and work through the conflict later after we’ve both cooled off than to keep pushing until we explode.
Gossip, on the other hand, is typically more subtle. It sneaks up on you, and you don’t realize you’re gossiping until you’re in the middle of whatever story you were sharing. Sometimes you don’t recognize the gossip until after the conversation is over, as you reflect on what was shared!
Either way, whether it’s in the form of angry words or gossip, sin is not absent when we flap our jaws too much. It takes the power of the Holy Spirit to keep our tongues in check, and those of us who belong to Jesus have that power dwelling within us. We really have no excuse for allowing our runaway mouths to lead us into sin!
My prayer this week is that God will give us the wisdom and the power to hold our tongues and avoid the sin that comes from talking too much.
“Listen, for I have trustworthy things to say; I open my lips to speak what is right. My mouth speaks what is true, for my lips detest wickedness.” (Proverbs 8:6-7, NIV)
This chapter in Proverbs personifies Wisdom. She goes to “the highest point along the way, where the paths meet… beside the gate leading into the city” (vv. 2-3) and calls out, inviting people to come and learn wisdom and righteousness. At the beginning of her speech, she says verses 6-7 above.
Talk about a challenge! Do these verses describe you? Can people trust what I say, or do I tend to exaggerate too much? Is my word unreliable? Do I spin things to look more positive (or more negative) than they actually are? Is my speech right and true? Do my lips detest wickedness?
I think it becomes even more of a challenge when we consider communication beyond just our speech. In particular, I’m thinking of Facebook, SnapChat, Instagram, email, etc. In today’s world, social media is the highest point along the way, where the paths meet. Yet, when we get on Facebook, Twitter, or other sites, how often do we think intentionally about what we say on those platforms? When we’re fired up and typing an email, do we remember how much easier it is to be snarky through a message than when we’re face-to-face?
Jesus said, “The mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Luke 6:45). I think it would be consistent with His teaching to say a person’s Facebook page reflects what their heart is full of. Think about what you say, and look through your Facebook wall in light of Proverbs 8:6-7. What kinds of pictures do you post to Instagram? What does your SnapChat communicate about the kind of person you are? My prayer for this week is that all of us will think before we speak or post. Is this wise? Is it trustworthy? Is it right? Is it true? Does it represent Christ well?
“You use your mouth for evil and harness your tongue to deceit.” (Psalm 50:19, NIV).
“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.” (Ephesians 4:29, NIV)
Words are powerful. They can be used to bless or curse. They can be used to worship or blaspheme. We can speak truth or lies. We can use words to build someone up or entirely destroy their lives. They can express love or hate. There’s almost no limit to what words can accomplish.
Yet, how often do we think before we speak? How often do we pause to consider the power of our words and the impact of what we’re about to say? Or do we let our words flow unfiltered, heedless of the devasting effect they often have? Are we quick to throw our opinions around without reflecting on whether it’s beneficial or discouraging to the person with whom we’re sharing? Do we stop and think about that joke we’re getting ready to tell, whether it’s appropriate for a mouth that belongs to Jesus? I’ve found that when I’m not intentional with my speech, I sometimes end up using my mouth for evil, rather than good. Even when our motives are good, careless words can turn constructive criticism into scathing rebuke because our tongues are deceitful–even to our own selves!
Ephesians 4:29 is a good reminder to use our words to build others up, to say what is needed (which isn’t always what is nicest) so that another can grow as a person and as a follower of Jesus. Let’s use our words to benefit those who listen, rather than to our own good, our own glory, or our own advantage. What if we used the power of our words to serve another this week? What if we used our mouths to ask or grant forgiveness, to tell our spouses how much we love them, or to say to our kids how proud of them we are? What if we asked ourselves, “What does this person need to hear from me to be encouraged today?” How could that change a relationship or mend broken fences?
My prayer this week is that we will use our words for what is helpful in building another up to the glory of God and the benefit of that person.
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash