Glorifying God with Our Communication
“You’re worthless!” “I hate you!” “You’re a loser!” “Why did I ever marry someone like you?” “You’re so ugly.” “Get out of my sight!” We have all been stung by the hurtful speech of others, and likely still bear some of the wounds these cutting words have left on our souls. Unfortunately, we have also been the one who has inflicted wounds on others with our ungodly communication. Often the most damaging words are spoken within the context of the family. Somehow we mistakenly believe that being related to someone gives us the freedom to say unkind and unloving things to the people we are called to show love and compassion too. When we live day to day in close proximity to other sinners there is ample opportunity for hurtful and ungodly communication to take place. As believers, we need to watch our words carefully so that we do not use our tongues to sin against the people we are called to love. Our homes should be a place of refuge, not conflict. Our homes should be a place of compassion, not resentment. Our homes should be a place of healing, not destruction. But we are all armed with a dangerous and deadly weapon. Our tongues.
The Bible has much to say about how we communicate and how dangerous our careless words can be. For instance, James warns that “the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness” (James 3:6). Because of the potential damage our tongue can cause, we are wise to carefully control our speech. Our words can either bring healing or destruction. Our words can either bring hope or despair. Our words can either bring life or death. The difference rests in the choices that we make regarding our speech.
Proverbs 15:4 offers a nice summary statement about the importance of godly speech. It says, “A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.” Let’s consider two basic principles from this simple verse.
First, when we speak kindly we are a source of encouragement to the recipient. The first part of Proverb 15:4 tells us that a gentle tongue is a “tree of life.” The “tree of life” imagery indicates that gentle speech seeks to restore paradise in a broken world (see Revelation 22:1-2). This means that when we choose to speak gently we bring healing and peace to others. When used correctly, our words can pour blessing and life upon the hearer. In our sinful world we need to be a source of speech that brings blessing to those who hear us speak.
Secondly, when we speak perversely we are a source of destruction to the recipient. This proverb tells us that on the one hand people can be blessed by our words. On the other hand, our words can cause great damage. Through our ungodly speech we can quickly break the spirit of another person. The second part of Proverbs 15:4 refers to deceitful speech that crushes the spirit of the one listening. There are times that our words deal a crushing blow to the spirit of another person, and we leave a tremendous amount of wreckage behind. Our tongues must be guarded because perverse speech fractures the soul and shatters relationships. When we use our words carelessly destructive consequences always follow.
Consider how these two diametrically opposed options come to play in our homes. Because we spend considerable time with the people in our families, our speech can too quickly fall into the second category of speech. The longer we live with someone our words can easily become ungodly and damaging to those we are called by God to love. Parents must choose language that is life-giving when they speak to their children. As parents, we must never underestimate the impact our words have on the hearts of our children. We must wisely choose words that are edifying to our kids (Ephesians 4:29).
Spouses must also carefully choose words that restore the soul of their mate. Putdowns, sarcastic comments, abusive words, and backstabbing should never take place in a marriage relationship. Nor should a spouse ever be ignored. Proper communication is the lubrication that keeps a marriage vibrant and healthy. Speaking words of hope and compassion help build a marriage that is healthy and strong.
Children must avoid words that are damaging to their siblings and to their parents. Teasing, name-calling, hateful words, and disrespectful language should never be used by children. As parents, we must teach and model godly speech for our children. Unholy speech in the home must not be ignored, otherwise it will likely become a life-dominating issue for our children. All members of the household, from the youngest to the oldest, must have their words always seasoned with salt so that they can dispense grace to those who hear (see Colossians 4:6).
The simple way to approach language in our homes is to “T.H.I.N.K.” before we speak. Before speaking always ask yourself:
T – is what I’m about to say true?
H – is what I’m about to say helpful?
I – is what I’m about to say inspirational?
N – is what I’m about to say necessary?
K – is what I’m about to say kind?
The simple rule to follow is, if you answer “No” to any of these questions, then please don’t say it. We would all be wise to “be quick to hear, slow to speak” (James 1:19). Choose your words carefully, and be sure that they are always filled with fruit from the “tree of life.”