Two of our little grandkids are in speech therapy. Honestly sometimes I feel like I need speech therapy too! What about you? Does your tongue ever get you in trouble? I know—mine too!
The wise writer of Proverbs wrote, “The tongue has the power of life and death” (Proverbs 18:21).The Apostle Paul wrote, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths” (Ephesians 4:29).The word “unwholesome” means decayed, rotten, and speaking of death. In other words, Scripture implores us to choose words of faith that give life.
Unwholesome words can fall into the category of negativity, profanity, or words that tear others down. Jesus Himself said, “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words, you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36-37). We will be held accountable for how we use our tongues. Scary thought!
How do we use our tongues to bring life to others rather than despair? How do we use our tongues in such a way that we won’t be embarrassed at the end of our life because of the words we’ve spoken? How do we set boundaries around this tiny but powerful instrument of our body?
Proverbs 18 gives us a few tips on how to set boundaries around our words:
Don’t delight in airing your own opinions.
“Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions” (Proverbs 18:2).
We are in love with our own opinions. If you doubt that statement, just scroll through social media. There are plenty of opinions on everything! Opinions aren’t wrong. They help define who we are. But if you’re airing your opinions without respectfully listening to the opinions of others, you are being foolish. It’s just not necessary to share your view on everything. Some thoughts are better left unsaid, particularly when you are trying to build a relationship. You don’t have to sacrifice your views. You can own your own opinions; you just don’t have to share them all. When we feel the need to state our view on every little matter, it’s often because we feel insecure and we’re trying to persuade another to agree with us. But we can have relationships without agreeing on everything.
“The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts” (Proverbs 18:8).
Here’s a good rule of thumb: in your conversations, don’t cast another person in a bad light, and don’t share confidential information. Paint others in a positive light. If you have concerns, pray and process with God. At times there’s a need to process with a wise friend or counselor, but don’t share beyond that. Scripture is so clear on gossip—it’s wrong. So stop.
Don’t answer without listening first.
“To answer before listening—that is folly and shame” (Proverbs 18:13).
Ouch! Convicting, right? Allow the other person to completely finish their thoughts before you answer, give an opinion, or say anything at all. In other words, be quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19). Who around you needs to feel heard? Slow down and listen.
Putting boundaries around your speech will pay off, but how do you speak in way that edifies and encourages others? Compliment often. Encourage frequently. Affirm regularly. And pray continually. Remind yourself every day that your tongue has the potential to bring life to others. I’m convinced that we are living in a world where people are dying for encouragement. So don’t miss the opportunity to build them up!
Why don’t you take a moment and pray this prayer with me:
Lord Jesus, so often I mess up with my mouth. Holy Spirit, fill me. Let the words of my mouth be pleasing to you and uplifting to others. Set a guard over my mouth, Lord. Help me not to speak any unwholesome word or any word that discourages. Instead, fill my mouth with words of praise and joy.
Steve and I are in Ecuador this week, where we are ministering to our missionaries and then speaking at a conference for SIM missionaries.
How You Can Pray:
Please pray as Steve and I speak and encourage over the next week and a half.
Please pray as Steve heads to Australia and New Zealand, from Ecuador to speak at a pastor’s conference.
I’ll head home and use August as an intense writing month; please pray that the Lord will fill me with creativity and wisdom as I write.