I came across a statistic on the Internet that amazed me. I was not sure I believed it. I read that the average person speaks 11,000,000 words a year. Imagine 11,000,000 words a year. This is easier to believe about some people than others. I have a few friends for whom 11,000,000 words a year is no problem. They can do that in a month. Do you know how many words that is in a lifetime? At the age of 65 it is 715,000,000 words. Imagine the magnitude of that many words.
OUR WORDS MATTER
Words are incredibly powerful. They can build up, encourage, and motivate. Words can also tear down, hurt, and cause horrible scars. Remember the saying many of us used as kids, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” It isn’t true. Words can hurt. Some of us are living with the scars of the hurtful words of others. The Bible tells us how powerful words can be…
Proverbs 18:21 – “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”
Words matter to God. He keeps a record of our words. Jesus told us in…
Matthew 12:36 – “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.”
Jesus spoke plainly about our use of words. He tells us, “for every careless word” there will be an accounting in the day of judgment. We expect Jesus to condemn profane and vile uses of the tongue, but idle words? We say some words carelessly, without concern for their impact on others. Why would God care about those? We assume that the sins of our tongue are minor sins, sins that God will overlook. Jesus was fully aware of the devastating nature of our words.
HOW TO USE OUR WORDS
The Bible has a lot to say about how we use our words. Here are a few biblical principals about the use of words.
- Refrain from attack words
Words can be used as a weapon to lash into people. Sometimes our goal is to hurt people by what we say. The first thing some people do in the morning is brush their teeth and sharpen their tongue. Words can cut like a knife and we want to stick the dagger in deep. God does not want us to use our words as a weapon. He wants us to use our words to bless others. Jesus says in…
Matthew 5:44 – “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”
- Refrain from gossip
We need to be careful about the news we share concerning others. Someone said, “There is only one thing as difficult as unscrambling an egg, and that’s un-spreading a rumor.” Gossip is destructive, and it is subtle. Someone begins a conversation: “Did you hear?” Before you know it, you’re caught up in gossip. Don’t believe everything you hear. Someone said, “A gossip usually makes a mountain out of a molehill by adding some dirt.”
Be careful about listening to gossip. Is listening to gossip all that much worse than telling it? There’s a saying, “He who gossips to you will gossip about you.”
The Bible warns us…
Proverbs 20:19 – “A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much.”
Proverbs 16:28 – “A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.”
Watch out for gossip.
- Use clean words
Some words are just not proper to speak. When we were kids our parents would wash our mouths out with soap if we said such words. Having a foul mouth is not something to be proud of. Some words are not supposed to be said.
Ephseians 4:29 – “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”
And again in…
James 5:12 – “But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment.”
- Use truthful words
Matthew 5:37 – “All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”
People need to believe what we say. Lying destroys our credibility. Chances are that we’ll eventually be caught if we make a practice of lying.
I heard a story about a woman who was hosting guests for dinner. She decided to serve chicken. She told the butcher she’d like to buy chicken. The butcher opened his freezer case, and saw only one chicken. He put it on the scale and said “two pounds.”
The lady responded, “Oh, I wanted one bigger than that.” The butcher, not wanting to lose a sale, took the chicken off the scale, put it back in the freezer and pulled up the same chicken – his last chicken – and said, “three pounds.” The woman answered, “Great, I’ll take both of them.” The butcher had a problem. Be honest. Let the words that flow from your mouth be truthful.
- Use edifying words
Ephesians 4:29 – “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.”
Perhaps you are thinking, Okay Woody, you’ve made your point, I need to make some changes on the way I use my tongue. But how do I do it? Perhaps you’ve tried to make some changes in your speech but it ended in failure. You want to know what you can do to succeed this time.
TRANSFORM OUR TONGUE
Transforming the tongue begins with a change in the heart. Jesus said…
Matthew 15:18 – “But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.”
The heart influences the tongue. When it is full of anger, selfishness, envy, pride, and all the other ugly “stuff” that can invade our hearts, we are affected in everything we do.
We need to think before we speak. The Bible teaches…
James 1:19-20 – “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”
Guard against engaging the tongue without engaging the mind. Take a moment before you speak. Here’s an acrostic to help evaluate whether you are about to say something you perhaps shouldn’t. Ask the following questions:
T – is it true?
H – is it helpful?
I – is it inspiring?
N – is it necessary?
K – is it kind?
If what you are about to say does not pass this simple test, then don’t say it. Think before you speak.
Tap into God’s help. This help is available to us. Who can tame the human tongue? Jesus can. Jesus is in the business of transforming lives. Paul reminded us…
2 Corinthians 5:17 – “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
Jesus can give us the desire and motivation to change. Most of all, He can give us the ability to make the change. Paul commented…
Phillippians 4:13 – “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
Countless lives have been transformed through Christ. Jesus specializes as a change agent. Let Jesus do His work in your life.
Curb your tongue… be good to one another; stay humble, stay kind… Go with God!