In our current setting, what we say stays forever. Our tweets, Facebook statuses, Instagram posts, and other forms of communication stick around. Even if we think they are deleted, that is not the case. There have been countless influential people who have gotten into trouble for things they have said. As Christians, we need to be careful about what we say. As my Hebrew Professor Dr. Moseley says, “It is one thing to say something, but it is another thing to say it well.” We all remember a sermon that was well put, or maybe a compliment from someone that has stuck with us. How do we use our words well? We need to look at the power of words.
First, words have the power to bring life. Look at Ezekiel 37 and the Valley of Dry Bones. Ezekiel looks out into a valley of dry bones. The Lord told Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones and they came alive. We may not be Elijah but, we have been given a message from God that brings life. Every verse that we read has been breathed out by God (2 Timothy 3:16). As we read Scripture, it gives us life. And as we share the message of God from the Bible it brings life to others. Do you remember the best encouragement someone has given you? I remember when my former mentor gave me an index card that said, “I believe in you.” Or when my friend Josh told me that whatever church I preach at will be blessed by my love of the Word. What Josh didn’t know is that I was previously in a pit of despair with my preaching style and lacked confidence. But those words lifted me up and gave me a boost of life.
Second, words have the power to bring death as well. Words have two volatile extremes, they can bring death and they can bring life. James 3 uses this imagery which compares the tongue to a spark in a forest fire. With it, we can bring unrighteousness with the littlest of phrases. Our tongue brings curses out as well as blessings. I remember the worst things people have said to me. We remember the words that cut us just as much as those that bring us life.
It is impossible to control our tongue under our own power, but what are some practical steps to aid in controlling the tongue?
First, be slow to speak. James gives us practical advice on how to speak well. He tells us to be “quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” Instead of rushing to say something, sit back and think. Be slow to speak. Now, this isn’t telling us to be slow like molasses, but I believe it is telling us to at least have time to think and process what I am going to say.
Second, be careful with what you’re putting in your head. Whether it be the music you listen to or the people you hang out with. 1 Corinthians 15:33 gives us the advice that “Bad Company corrupts good character.” A part of good character is good speech. Bad company can be actual people, but I could argue it could be the music you listen to or movies you watch.
Third, engage God’s word. If you want to know how to speak and use your words well, look at how God does it with His word. Since all Scripture comes from God, we can use this as an example of what proper usage of words looks like. Look at how Jesus interacts with His disciples or with lost people. Gain wisdom from Proverbs. Learn to pray from the Psalms. If you want to learn to use words well, learn from the best.
Fourth, grow in your relationship with God. Don’t just use the Bible as a textbook to leadership growth or how to live a moral life. Remain active in your walk with the Lord and obey his commandments. Growing in your relationship with the Lord can be done by having daily devotions and an active prayer life. In your prayer life, you can pray for the Lord to teach you patience with words and give you what you need to say in certain situations. Through those daily devotions allow the Holy Spirit to change what needs to be changed with you.