The bible has a lot to say about the effects of our words, what they reveal about our hearts, and what consequences certain types of words will have on us and others. Some verses are meant to teach us, and some are meant to warn. Others are meant to reveal our own hearts to ourselves.
Specifically in the book of Ecclesiastes, there even appears to be a time for anger and other forms of being upset. This can lead to some misunderstandings. Some people feel passages that tell us to flee immorality, be wary of ear tickling teaching, and so forth translate to sometimes it’s okay to say mean things to those practicing immorality, and humiliate false teachers, etc.
If you believe this, then I challenge you to find a verse that says either of the above is okay… I think you would have a bit of a problem on your hands.
Well then, how are we to speak to each other?
We’re in luck. Scripture tells us just how to and how not to talk to one another.
For simplicity sake, we’ll group them into the 10 do’s and don’ts of talking to others.
How Not To Speak To Others
James 1:19 tells us to be slow to speak. In the very same passage it states we should be quick to listen.
When others are talking, do we cut them off and speak first believing we already know what they are going to say? I thought I’d conquered this one until I was literally reading this passage and one of my young children came up to me and said, “Mommy, can I–” and I cut her off–nicely of course, because I knew what she was going to ask for–and said, “No, you may not. Thank you for asking. Could you please [task assigned] instead?”
She looked down softly at her feet a bit confused and said gently, “Mommy, that’s what I was going to ask.”
Foolish. Yes. Foolish. That’s how I felt, and how I looked. Had I been slow to listen even when I “knew” what she wanted, and then slow to speak, I would not have spoken foolishly to my child, but instead treated her with respect and answered in a much more loving way.
The same is true for any adult. Do not be quick to answer, instead listen and ponder a good answer–if one is even needed.
2. With corrupt talk
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths (Ephesians 4:29).
Is someone trash-talking Jesus? Let no corrupt talk come out of your mouths. Perhaps even re-read #1. If we can’t have a godly response, we shouldn’t have one at all.
3. With filthy words
Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place (Ephesians 5:4).
When I was in the Navy, I heard plenty of dirty jokes, as I’m sure you can imagine.
Problem was, although most of it was disgusting to me, occasionally I thought some of them were hilarious–like I-couldn’t-control-myself-from-laughing-hilarious. And if you’re like me, if you thought something was funny, you may be tempted to share it with someone else who thinks it’s funny.
Friends, it’s not funny to Jesus. When we repeat something even discretely to our husbands or just one good friend because “it doesn’t hurt anyone” we have just disobey God’s word. Period.
4. With evil of another
Man is made in the image of God. Every man.
That man you don’t like and are tempted to speak ill of? Yeah, he was made in the image of God too. When you say something vile about another person, you are speaking ill of someone made in the image of God.
I get it Friends, I really do. There are people in this world possessed by evil, and it’s hard to not say spiteful words about them.
Titus 3:2, and James 4:11 warn us against this. This is not to say we cannot state facts about another person. For example, our children recently asked us who we were going to vote for for the next president. When talking about our responsibility to pick carefully, we pointed out things people stood for, policies certain candidates pushed for (or not), which ones appear to have godly values–and which ones don’t. These are facts, and discussing them keeps people informed. What we didn’t do was label any of them as evil, or stupid.
Speak in truth Friends, but guard your lips from speaking evil.
5. Answering with the same foolish logic
I think we have all been in the position where someone has said something that made us think, Now I’ve heard everything. But are you tempted to say something equally foolish back? Ever done it? If you have, or you’ve witnessed someone else doing this, it doesn’t make the responder look smart. It makes them look equally foolish. (See Proverbs 26:4.)
How We Should Speak To Others
1. In truth
This can be hard–especially for “nice girls.” Those who have the personality to just say nice things all the time can go overboard and say things that are nice, but not truthful.
This can also be hard in instances of jealousy. You know something that will give you gain and someone else asks about it and you say, “I don’t know.” That’s a lie.
Is a white lie harmful? I suppose it doesn’t matter. A lie is a lie. It is better to gracefully bow out of a conversation if you are tempted to lie. And…this can be hard with a pushy person.
See Ephesians 4:25 and Zechariah 8:16.
Titus 3:2 tells us that instead of slandering and quarreling we should be gentle and show true humility to everyone. This verse tells us a lot. It’s not just saying be gentle with your kids, or your husband, or people in your church (although you should). It’s specifically saying instead of slandering and quarreling, be gentle and show humility–to everyone.
With people you love, be gentle. When you’re having a stressful day, be gentle. When it’s a rotten day and someone is picking an argument with you and you’re tempted to say something, be gentle. To everyone, be gentle.
Matthew Henry’s commentary of Colossians 4:6 states, “Though it be not always of grace, it must always be with grace.” When speaking, do it not only gently, but attractively.
This may have been the hardest one for me to grasp, as I grew up in a house where you spoke in short sentences–say what you mean, mean what you say, and get it out. It has been through working on #1 from the “don’t list”, fellowshipping with other godly women, and listening to their responses, that I have been able to mold this in my own speech over the years.
Ephesians 4:29 goes a bit farther and says, “to those who hear.” Remember that you don’t always have to make yourself heard.
4. With thanksgiving
Ephesians 5:4 tells us when speaking, the giving of thanks is always appropriate. Although we may need to be discrete at times with this, it is always appropriate.
5. In defense of hope
For some women, this is the hardest one. God’s word tells us
You must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. 1 Peter 3:15
There are three main reasons this is hard for some women.
First, some women are just uncomfortable. It’s not that they are ashamed, but they feel too much responsibility for offending someone, so they don’t give it much thought. Let me take a minute to point out that this verse states if someone asks you, be prepared. When someone genuinely wants to know what Jesus means to you, simply be prepared to answer. There, did that take off some of the pressure?
Second, some women have really not sat down and thought it out. They know they need Jesus. They know he comforts them. They know they are saved, and they know He is so good. But putting that into words? It just hasn’t been thought out.
Third. I have met many women who do not want to share how they came to Jesus because they believe it does not glorify Jesus. If this is you, then I encourage you to think about your story of redemption in terms of, “He changed my life.” I can imagine Rahab may have thought the same thing–yet it is through radical transformation of lives (such as hers) that He shines the brightest.
Is there an area you want to work on? Write it down and put it on your pillow, in your pocket, or even write the verse on your mirror—whatever you need to do. Pray this verse over yourself for a while.
Are you able to easily and appropriately make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you? Can you do it with gentleness and respect?
Take some time with it. Pray over it. And whatever you do, be prepared. You could be the person who makes a nonbeliever question his eternal future and begin seeking truths.
Need help with the process? I offer a free 5 page printout to all subscribers to help you positively identify your unique story and become ready to share with anyone at anytime. You can subscribe in the upper right hand corner of this site to receive yours for free, or go here to support the ministry. (This is also a great supplement to a ladies group event–I only ask that you download no more than 20 at a time so that I can keep the costs down. Thank you.)
Are you ready to share your faith with others? If not, what holds you back?