This article is based on a talk given by Joe Novenson at a recent LMPC staff meeting.
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. Ephesians 4:29
As humans, we write, speak, think, and record words in a near-constant stream every day. The Bible is full of counsel about how we should use our words. But why are words of such importance to God? There are many indicators in Scripture as to why this is so.
- God identifies himself in his very essence as The Word.
- God chose to create by his words “let there be” seven times. (Genesis 1)
- He blesses with words. “He blessed them and said…” (Genesis 1:28)
- The first recorded human action is speech: “This is now bone of my bones…” (Genesis 2:23)
- He curses with words. (Genesis 3)
- As he judges in Revelation 19:13: “His name is the Word of God.”
- “He holds all things together by his powerful word.” (Hebrews 1:3)
- Satan used words to attempt to destroy the universe.
So God did not stoop to use words so you would understand. Rather, he lifted you to his image-bearing heights when he gave you the ability to use words.
…God lifted you to his image-bearing heights when he gave you the ability to use words.
Proverbs 12:18 says: “Thoughtless words pierce like a knife, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Notably, the first is a battle image, and the second is a surgical image.
A warrior never has to ask questions that a doctor must ask with great care.
“Do they want me to be their surgeon?”
“Do I have an accurate diagnosis?”
“Am I willing to sew up the wound after I make it?”
“Am I willing to do post-operative therapy?”
“Will I welcome follow-up visits?”
We can conclude from Scripture two central truths about words:
- Words are among the hardest things to control.
James 1:26/3:3-12: “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight reign on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.” Not “and he/she needs to grow a little more.” Not “and they are just a little immature.” Not “and they just have a passionate spirit.” Their faith is worthless.
- Words are among the most restorative things we are given.
Proverbs 15:4: “The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a (sinful) deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.”
C.S. Lewis’ words from The Weight of Glory can guide how we speak to others: “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.” Each time we open our mouths, we would be wise to keep this truth at the forefront of our minds.