We each have those areas in our lives where we struggle more than others. One of the areas in my life that I need to be careful about is the things I say. It is not so much that I say foul or profane things. Rather, it is that sometimes I am careless and say things that could have been said better. When I look back at such sayings, I realize that if I would have thought a little deeper about my words, I would have honored the Lord Jesus Christ more with my speech. The Bible has a lot to say about thinking carefully about our words (and actions):
The heart of the godly thinks carefully before speaking; the mouth of the wicked overflows with evil words. (Proverbs 15:28)
The prudent carefully consider their steps. (Proverbs 14:15b)
Everyone enjoys a fitting reply; it is wonderful to say the right thing at the right time! (Proverbs 15:23)
Sometimes it is simply the busyness of life that causes us to neglect the careful consideration of our ways. Sometimes a situation or conversation takes us off guard. Sometimes we respond “off the cuff,” and realize later that our reply, while not blatantly evil, was not fitting.
Our words reflect something very important about us. The Bible teaches that our speech is the overflow of our heart. Jesus said, “Whatever is in your heart determines what you say” (Matthew 12:34). Furthermore, we will be held accountable for our speech: “And I tell you this, that you must give an account on judgment day of every idle word you speak” (Matthew 12:36). We cannot be careless with our words.
Here are things to keep in mind regarding speaking:
The Bible teaches us to think carefully about what we say. Make it a habit to think through your responses to questions, comments, or criticisms. Will your words bring glory to Christ? Will they build up or tear down?
Sometimes, we simply need to slow down. We often find that our lives are unfolding according to the soundtrack of Alabama’s “I’m in a Hurry (And Don’t Know Why).” Take a moment. Take a deep breath. Don’t let others rush you into decisions or responses!
Fill your heart with the truth of Jesus
Guarding your heart is vital to guarding your tongue. Fill your heart with the truth of Jesus day after day. You will still struggle, but you will find that you are responding more and more like your master. My friend, Kevin Whitfield, pastor at Church of the Lamb in Elkton, Virginia, used the analogy of an actor who gets in character by studying the historical personage they are representing. In a similar (not identical) way, Christians should be so immersed in Jesus’ life that they learn to act as he would.
Find forgiveness in Christ
Ultimately, when we sin with our words, whether flagrantly or subtly, we must find forgiveness in Christ. The precious truth of 1 John 1:9 applies here: “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong.” Confession not only brings about forgiveness, but cleansing.