Have you ever stopped to ponder the power of a single word? Words are the building blocks of our communication system. Without words, the human race would be very much handicapped. Words are expressed orally and in written or recorded form. From the creation of Adam and Eve, mankind has had a language system. Some scientists believe that man evolved and were so primitive in the early stages that they could only express ideas with drawings and pictures. It is true that archaeologists have found cave drawings of pictures, symbols, and hieroglyphics, but according to the Bible we know that from the first day of their creation the human race spoke with a high form of intelligence. Adam even conversed with God Himself in the cool of the day. Since words are the fundamental basis of our communication, we must learn to speak clearly and never in haste. Proverbs 25:11 relates how an appropriate word spoken at the right time is very valuable and uplifting. “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.”
The Scriptures are prolific with advice and warnings on the use of our tongue. The main emphasis relates to the wise verses foolish; truth verses lies; and discretion verses indiscretion.
Let us look at a few verses relating to wise verses foolish speech. I will not comment on these verses for lack of space but one can see that they speak very well for themselves. “The heart of the righteous studieth to answer: but the mouth of the wicked poureth out evil things” (Proverbs 18:13). “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him” (Proverbs 15:2). “The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness” (Proverbs 13:3). “He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life: but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction” (Proverbs 13:3).
Now we will examine some Scriptures on truth verses lies. “The lip of truth shall be established for ever: but a lying tongue is but for a moment” (Proverbs 12:19). “Lying lips are abomination to the LORD: but they that deal truly are his delight” (Proverbs 12:22). “Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding” (Proverbs 23:23). “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Rev. 218).
Truth emanates from God. Jesus said: “…I am the way, the truth, and the life…” (John 14:6). When we become a Christian we are in Christ and Christ is in us. We cannot help but speak the truth for that is the nature of Christ in us. Contrast this with the following Scripture. “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it” (John 8:44). Not being in Christ automatically makes one a subject of Satan, though he may be morally pure. Being in Satan makes him your spiritual father and you will do whatever he wants you to do for his evil nature is present in your life and will drive you to do his bidding when it is advantageous to him for you to do so. You can’t help yourself for you are his child and his evil nature is in you. You may resist for a while for that is where your good morality comes in but when you are backed into a corner your true nature will come forth. Remember the Flip Wilson Show’s famous line? “The devil made me do it.” Like father, like son (or daughter).
Now we will look at a few Scriptures on discretion. “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). “A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season, how good is it!” (Proverbs 15:23). “Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles” (Proverbs 21:23). “Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth” (Proverbs 26:20).
Not only are we to speak the truth as opposed to a lie, but we are to speak the truth in the right manner. Ephesians 4:15 tells us how to do this. “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.” Not only is it expected of us to speak the right thing, but we are to speak it in a manner that will not hurt or offend others. The tone in our voice or our body language may convey a meaning to words spoken that will offend. A softly spoken word will bring hope and healing while the same word spoken rashly will cause hurt and division.
A story is told of a young man who went away to college. He wrote home asking his father for some money. His father could not read, so he asked a friend to read the letter from his son to him. The friend read it roughly and hastily. The father responded that if this is the way his son felt about it, he would not send him any money. After a few days went by, the father let another friend read the letter to him. This friend read the letter with loving tones in his voice and with deep feeling. The father responded, “If that is the way my son feels, I will send him anything he wants.” In both cases, the words were the same, but the tone of the reader made all the difference in the world to the mind and heart of the father.
James, a prominent leader in the Early Church, had this to say about the tongue: “But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God” (James 3:8, 9). Since God’s Word declares so plainly that we must use speech in a sound manner, then what is the answer to mankind’s problem with the tongue? The Scripture has the answer: “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man” (Col. 4:6). The grace of God changes us through the born again experience and the experience of sanctification. In addition to this, when the Holy Ghost comes in to dwell within us, He uses our tongues to speak in other languages that we do not know. The sanctifying grace of God and the influence of the Spirit upon us will enable us to receive wisdom that will direct us not only in our speech, but in all other areas of our life as well.
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