In the final analysis, what we say, and how we say it is a reflection of who we are. As God’s people, as ambassadors of His Kingdom, we must reflect God’s culture in every aspect of our lives. One very important aspect is in our speaking, the words that we say. How important is right and proper speaking to God?
Proverbs 25:11 compares the beauty and the value of “a word fitly spoken” to “apples of gold in settings of silver.” The Hebrew words for “fitly spoken” are translated “upon its wheel”—the meaning being a word spoken in its due time, with time’s revolution being compared to a revolving wheel (“Proverbs 25:11”, Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary. CD–ROM. BibleSoft: PC Bible v4c). The word is spoken at the right time, in the right place, befitting the circumstance. Our words paint a verbal image in the minds of our hearers; therefore, we must choose our words carefully.
We should continually work at polishing our vocabulary so that the words we speak are clear, exact and precise. By so doing, our message and its intent are communicated effectively and not misunderstood. It could be a word of encouragement, a word of instruction, even correction. Stated in the right way, at the right moment so as to be pleasant and beautiful, our words can be just like exquisitely crafted apples of gold in a basket of fine, filigreed silver.
Paul admonished the church in Ephesus to “be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet–smelling aroma. But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks” (Eph. 5:1–4). Here is the godly standard, inspired by our Creator, by which our speaking will be measured.
The language of the world is filled with filthiness, foolishness and coarse humor. God reminds us that He finds such language repulsive and repugnant. He cautions us that we should never compromise His high standards with such types of speaking. So how do we handle jokes with inappropriate undertones? Such attempts at humor are usually accompanied by excessive cursing, expletives and swear words. All such language is uttered in an effort to induce laughter, and make the comedian the life of the party.
And how often do we find ourselves drawn to cheap, crass humor—laughing at jokes that make fun of others? Instead of being encouraging, do we tear down and discourage, inflicting immeasurable hurt on others? When we embarrass them and make them the butt of inappropriate jokes, done in exceedingly poor taste, we demonstrate how utterly lacking we are of any class, refinement and quality.
A good, harmless, clean joke—sure, thatís nice. A good sense of humor at the right time, in the right way, used for the right purpose—that’s just wonderful! That’s one of the joys of life. But to harm and deceive and lie and hurt other people, and then try to gloss it over by saying, “I’m just joking” doesn’t go over very well with God, or with the victim of this foolishness. In fact, God calls such an individual a mad man, rabid and insane (Prov. 26:18–19). “Lighten up, I was just kidding. You can’t take a joke?” is often a quick and ready excuse for inappropriate language and humor. Just notice how such an individual reacts when he is at the receiving end of such jokes—usually, not so good.
Finally, we must realize, as God’s people we are held to a higher standard: “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matt. 12:36–37). The quality of our speech is so vitally important that it involves life and death. When life and death are at stake, it’s no longer a laughing matter. It isn’t just a joke anymore, is it?
In Proverbs 21:23, God reminds us to guard our mouth and our tongue. WHY? Because He is preparing us for positions of immense power in His Kingdom. Power and might just like He has. In the book of Hebrews, Paul says God upholds all things by the WORD of His power (Heb. 1:3). When He spoke, when He commanded, “Let there be light,” there was light! (Gen. 1:3). He will be sharing with us that same power to uphold all things by the words that we say. He will not bestow nor entrust such awesome power to an individual who is careless, foolish and frivolous with his mouth.
Yes, the words we speak are very important, indeed. Our words have tremendous power, by which we have an impact on the lives of others. Our words can hurt or heal. They can soothe or incite. They can lift up or tear down. More importantly, they reflect the God Who lives in us and the character He is instilling in us. Let us remember to exercise great care and much prudence in the words that we speak.
You can subscribe absolutely FREE to the print edition of Straightforward Magazine—no strings attached! Fill out the form below to receive your free subscription to this unique and vitally important magazine.