Language was first given to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. We know this because the Bible tells us that God and Adam communicated with each other. We also know that later Eve spoke with God, her husband, and the serpent. Communicating with God and her husband was a very good thing. Having a conversation with the serpent (which was Satan) was not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself, but she let the serpent’s words lead her (2 John 9-11). Eve’s conversation with the serpent is our first glimpse into how words can be used for harm. The serpent was able to twist the truth and make Eve think in an improper way, causing her to lust and question God’s word. Not only did she sin, but then led her husband to fall into that same snare with her (Genesis 3:1-6 Genesis 3:1-6 1 Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, Yes, has God said, You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
2 And the woman said to the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:
3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, You shall not eat of it, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.
4 And the serpent said to the woman, You shall not surely die:
5 For God does know that in the day you eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also to her husband with her; and he did eat.
American King James Version×).
On occasion, our words can be troublesome for us. No one is completely immune; words often cause us problems in life. Talking too much can be an issue for some people, but stopping is sometimes easier “said” than done. On occasion, we can find ourselves rambling on and on all the while thinking, “Why can’t I stop talking?” This can happen when a person has not had someone to talk to for a while or when the subject is especially interesting. They just get too excited and cannot control themselves.
Self-esteem issues, loneliness, fright, insecurity, or other problems may also cause someone to talk too much. It can also be culture—some areas of the country and world are known to talk more than others. Often one isn’t sure why they carry on or don’t realize they talk too much to begin with. Whatever the reason for someone being a chatterbox, it is often better to curb that action. The Bible has much to say on the topic and can teach us how our words can get in our way, make us look foolish, and/or cause harm.
We saw that it began with Adam and Eve, but then we can read about their son Cain, who, after killing his brother, decided it was a good idea to lie to God about it. “ And the LORD said to Cain, Where is Abel your brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper” (Genesis 4:9 Genesis 4:9And the LORD said to Cain, Where is Abel your brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?
American King James Version×AKJV throughout unless noted)?
Another lesson on how we use our words is shown as Israel traveled from Egypt. Israel cried and whined about their travels, their discomfort, their food, and many other things. They were quick to blame Moses and just as quick to turn from God, ignoring the many miracles they had witnessed. Moses spent much of his time beseeching God on behalf of the people. The continual discontent from the people finally drove Moses to say something that sealed his destiny.
After listening to them complain about being thirsty and not having faith in God, his anger gets the best of him. “And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said to them, Hear now, you rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock” (Numbers 20:10 Numbers 20:10And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said to them, Hear now, you rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?
American King James Version×)? Note that Moses said we (instead of God) and struck the rock.
Moses let his thoughts stray from God; he took partial credit for the miracle to follow, plus he struck the rock, which was not what God told him to do. Verse 11 “ And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also.” God was not pleased by Moses’ actions or words and told Aaron and Moses, in verse 12 “And the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, Because you believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.” Moses would not see the Promised Land; he died after viewing it from a mountain. His words had expressed his feelings instead of glorifying God, and his actions showed he had not listened to God’s words.
God tells us to use our words for good. They should be used to teach others and to encourage, keeping the members of the church strong. “ Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.” And “ Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men ” (1 Thessalonians 5:11 1 Thessalonians 5:11Why comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also you do.
American King James Version×, 14; see also Hebrews 10:24 Hebrews 10:24And let us consider one another to provoke to love and to good works:
American King James Version×KJV).
Our words (or tongue, as the Bible often states) can really cause us trouble. Proverbs 6:2 Proverbs 6:2You are snared with the words of your mouth, you are taken with the words of your mouth.
American King James Version×says, “ You are snared with the words of your mouth, you are taken with the words of your mouth.” If our words are continually used to promote ourselves or to make excuses for not getting involved, how can we edify others?
Using useful words
What we say can even turn a situation around. When someone confronts us in anger and we come back at him or her in the same fashion, the situation is bound to explode. Proverbs 15:1 Proverbs 15:1A soft answer turns away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.
American King James Version×warns us, “ A soft answer turns away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.” And Proverbs 16:24 Proverbs 16:24Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.
American King James Version×, “ Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.”
When someone damages us, we are told to go to that person in love and let him or her know that we are offended, but sometimes people twist this command (Matthew 5:24 Matthew 5:24Leave there your gift before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
American King James Version×). Some people feel it is their right to tell us whatever bugs them about us. Sometimes they may even say damaging things to us about our family members or friends as well. This can be especially hurtful because it is merely mean spirited, and not intended to correct us in our Godly walk or to encourage us.
Yet, there is a time to speak with wisdom. For example, when one of our brothers or sisters is in danger of hurting his or her relationship with God, or when we don’t step up in defense of someone who has been wronged. It can also mean we may not be willing to defend God’s way. This would be “ holding our peace even from good ” (Psalms 39:2 Psalms 39:2I was dumb with silence, I held my peace, even from good; and my sorrow was stirred.
American King James Version×). Words can be used for good or evil; to build up or to break down.
Even our prayers can be overtaken with meaningless words. We read in Matthew 6:7 Matthew 6:7But when you pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
American King James Version×, “But when you pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.” If our prayers are nothing more than memorized verses or some sort of chant, are we really talking to God? God wants us to speak to him in conversation, not some memorized bunch of words that have little meaning to us. He wants to have a personal relationship with us—one that helps us grow even closer with Him and shows we also want that relationship. “He that has knowledge spares his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit. Even a fool, when he holds his peace, is counted wise: and he that shuts his lips is esteemed a man of understanding” (Proverbs 17:27-28 Proverbs 17:27-28 27 He that has knowledge spares his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit. 28 Even a fool, when he holds his peace, is counted wise: and he that shuts his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.
American King James Version×).
Gossip and lies
We should be known to be truthful and upstanding. Sometimes it is best to say nothing rather than speak. Carefully chosen words can save us from the embarrassment of being caught in a lie or from spilling out gossip about someone else.
Gossips tend to cover their hurtful words by saying things like, “I shouldn’t really say this, but…” or “I don’t mean to gossip, however…” Proverbs 18:8 Proverbs 18:8The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.
American King James Version×tells us that, “The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.”
Have you ever considered how easy it is to lie? It seems that opening our mouth to tell a lie takes very little thought; Satan is surely right there in our minds helping us find the right words instantly. A lie is a way in which we not only hurt others, but also hurt ourselves. Matthew 12:37 Matthew 12:37For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned.
American King James Version×reads, “For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned.”
Have you ever been around someone who is a known liar? It is difficult to believe anything they tell you. We always harbor a hint of doubt, especially if the story is in any way difficult to believe. It doesn’t take long to be labeled a storyteller. A few lies can set us up as someone not to be trusted. The same can be true of a gossip. Do you really want to share anything with someone who is known to tell tales? “He that hides hatred with lying lips, and he that utters a slander, is a fool. In the multitude of words there wants not sin: but he that refrains his lips is wise. The tongue of the just is as choice silver: the heart of the wicked is little worth. The lips of the righteous feed many: but fools die for want of wisdom” (Proverbs 10:19-21 Proverbs 10:19-21 19 In the multitude of words there wants not sin: but he that refrains his lips is wise.
20 The tongue of the just is as choice silver: the heart of the wicked is little worth.
21 The lips of the righteous feed many: but fools die for want of wisdom.
American King James Version×).
Sometimes it isn’t even that we are known as liars, but that the story we tell is just too unbelievable. This happened to the women who came to the apostles telling them of Christ’s resurrection (Luke 24:10-11 Luke 24:10-11 10 It was Mary Magdalene and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things to the apostles.
11 And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.
American King James Version×). Then Peter ran in to check. That seems to tell us he had some doubt, and wanted to be sure. Even when Christ returned, he had to remind them that they hadn’t been listening to the words of the prophets (Verse 25). It’s not only the words we speak, but also those we listen to. How can we say we are faithful if we are not willing to listen to the words the teachers (pastors) set before us?
Thoughtful and kind words show love. Angry and evil words express hate and impatience. It can sometimes be hard to keep them under control, but we must pay attention to our words and we can ask God to help. Psalms 34:13-15 Psalms 34:13-15 13 Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking guile.
14 Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.
15 The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry.
American King James Version×says, “ Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking guile. Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it. The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry.”
For more reading that is useful request the booklet, Making Life Work