The Bible has much to say on how we should speak
Hello Readers, hope all’s well. Today I’m uploading another post from my Medium account. I haven’t been writing so much over there lately, as I’ve been focused on this blog here. Today’s post is about some of the things the Bible has to say about speaking, and how we speak to others.
On a side note, I’ll be on vacation next week! I’ll be writing shorter posts about what I’m up to, but no new posts in the Do Not Fear the End Times or Free from Ahab. We all need a vacation, need a break sometimes. And I am no different. I’ll be off next week, and the week after I’ll be back to the blog to pick up where I left off.
The Bible tells us our tongues have great power and influence over our lives. What we say directly impacts how our day will go. What we say can gain us new friends and get people to help us, or it can create enemies and start arguments.
Once we say something, it’s out there. We’ve said it. We can’t take it back. So we as Christians had better be careful about what we say, keeping some things in check, lest we sin against God by wounding or causing problems with our words.
The Bible has much to say about speaking and how we speak to others. Let’s take a look at some of these ideas.
Little tongue, big impact (James 3)
James 3 has some famous verses on the power of the tongue. Here’s a part of it:
We all make mistakes often, but those who don’t make mistakes with their words have reached full maturity. Like a bridled horse, they can control themselves entirely. When we bridle horses and put bits in their mouths to lead them wherever we want, we can control their whole bodies.James 3:2-5 (CEB)
Consider ships: They are so large that strong winds are needed to drive them. But pilots direct their ships wherever they want with a little rudder. In the same way, even though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts wildly.
Think about this: A small flame can set a whole forest on fire.
One small comment is all it takes to start a huge argument, a fight, or a long-lasting feud. One small comment is all it takes to set off someone who’s unstable. One small comment is all it takes to earn someone’s enmity. One small comment is all it takes to leave a permanent wound.
One small comment is all it takes to create a situation or problem where there was none.
So many problems are avoidable if we can tame our tongue. If we can stop ourselves from saying what we want to say in response to verbal attacks and other provocation. If we can keep nasty comments to ourselves. If we can find kind, constructive ways to criticize when we need to.
If we can control our speech, it will be a great benefit for us in our lives in general. We’ll be making more allies than enemies. We’ll be getting into less arguments and altercations. We’ll be more successful in life as a result, because we’ll have better human relationships and spend less energy on arguments and feuds. The benefits are enormous, especially over the long-term.
So keeping our tongue in check is not only a Christian virtue, it’s a wise strategy for life!
Let it go (Proverbs 12:16)
It’s a wise strategy because not every battle is worth fighting. Most arguments are pointless and gain us nothing. It’s better to pick and choose our battles.
When someone verbally attacks us, if the outcome or situation doesn’t matter, then we should let it go. If we can walk away from the situation and go about our business, then we should do so. It’s just smarter this way. Proverbs says so.
Fools have short fuses and explode all too quickly;Proverbs 12:16, MSG
the prudent quietly shrug off insults.
Fighting and arguments bring us down. They ruin our day, they steal our time and energy. Not every insult needs to be answered. We don’t need to dignify every insult with a response.
The wise quietly shrug off insults because they know the insult will have no impact on their life, in the grand scheme of things. But the consequences of getting into a fight, verbal or otherwise, could potentially affect their life forever.
If we let people trigger us with their words, then they have control over us. Don’t let others have that control. Learn to shrug off insults. The fight, the argument, just isn’t worth it. Let’s be prudent, let’s be wise. Don’t answer every insult.
Speak to others as you would have them speak to you
Whenever we speak, we must always remember we’re speaking to (or about) human beings, created in God’s image. There are some lines that can’t be crossed, or else we sin against God.
For example, you may have heard the news of Theodore Rothrock, a Catholic priest from Indiana. He was suspended last week from his priestly duties for a bulletin article he wrote in which he likened racial justice protesters to “maggots” and “parasites.” He will eventually be reassigned.
Here is one article about the story, and here is the bishop’s response.
No human being is a “maggot” or a “parasite.” This is dehumanizing language, which precedes violence. Using this kind of language to describe one of God’s beloved human beings is not acceptable, no matter how you feel about them, or anything they might do.
If you feel, as a Christian, that someone must be rebuked, criticized, or condemned for something, then that’s fine. You should follow your conscience and say something. But be sure to say it lovingly, always aware of the other person’s dignity as one of God’s children.
(I applaud this diocese’s actions in suspending this priest because his dehumanizing language sets a bad example for his church. I hope he stays suspended until he understands why what he said is wrong.)
Turning the other cheek
Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek, love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:39, 44). Well turning the other cheek is not limited to physical altercations. We need to turn the other cheek every time we’re attacked, which includes verbal attacks.
Verbal attacks can be insults, slander, criticism, blame, gossip, and more. Verbal attacks hurt, a lot. The sting of them can last for years, even decades. They hurt for far longer than any physical blow ever could!
Proverbs 18:21 tells us this. Our words can cause long-lasting harm to others. It doesn’t honor God to harm people like this. As Christians, we’d better watch what we say!
Death and life are in the power of the tongue; […]Proverbs 18:21, CEB
It’s much easier said than done to turn the other cheek when suffering a painful verbal attack. In fact, it might be one of the hardest teachings to follow. When someone attacks us, it’s our natural human instinct to fight back. To defend ourselves. To repay the other person in kind, blow for blow and word for word. To avenge our hurt by hurting them. It’s a vicious cycle.
But all that cycle does is create more hurt in the world. When we choose to turn the other cheek, we have a chance to stop that vicious cycle. By not retaliating, we don’t give anyone else a chance to retaliate to our retaliation. We don’t add to the hurt in the world. It’s hard for us to do, because we must overcome our natural instincts to do it. But just because something is hard is no reason not to try for it.
To turn the other cheek when we’re the target of verbal attacks is painful. But by not responding, we make the choice to not add more hate or anger into the world than there already is. Turning the other cheek to words is also Christlike. We can see from His example that when He was subjected to verbal abuse, He didn’t respond in kind. People still slander His name now, today. He doesn’t strike them down or punish them. He turns the other cheek, just like He taught us.
Tame the tongue
We must set a good example as Christians, we must practice what we preach. Since we must treat others how we want to be treated, we must treat everyone with respect. Even if they don’t return the favor, we must still do it anyway — this is turning the other cheek. And shrugging off insults is a wise move, it leads to less pointless arguing.
Controlling what we say gives us great control over what happens in our life. It doesn’t take much to set somebody off, so we need to be careful with our comments. We must never provoke others, and apologize when we do harm them, because verbal wounds can last for a long time. It doesn’t glorify God to harm people like this.
But when we do feel compelled to speak out against anyone, we must always remember that we’re speaking to someone who God loves just as much as He loves us. Some lines cannot be crossed. We can’t let anger trip us up into crossing them.
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Until next time, be strong and do good!
Your new best friend in Christ,
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