Do Words Matter?

I’ve heard my family and friends ask if the words we say really matter. “They’re just words.” Granted, they ask to justify the use of vulgar or profane language. The short answer is, yes, our words matter.

Now for the long answer. Let’s start with the best-known thing we should not say. “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.” (Exodus 20:7) This passage is clear. We are not to say the Lord’s name in a hostile manner. What is His name? God, Jesus, Lord, Christ, Savoir, Jesus Christ are a few examples.

The apostle Paul had some things to say about our words. In Ephesians 4:29, he said, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” He added to that in Ephesians 5:4, “neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.”

Paul also addressed the use of words when he wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:14-16, 14 Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers. 15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 16 But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness.”

Paul was concerned with both words and actions. He cautioned the church at Colossae in this manner, “But now put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and foul talk from your mouth” (Colossians 3:8)

The apostles Matthew and James, the brother of Jesus, wrote about our use of words. Jesus said, “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man” in Matthew 15:18. James put it this way: Even so, the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. (James 3:5-10).

While I’ve only scratched the surface of what the Bible says about how we should not speak, there is great value in knowing how we should speak. Paul told the church at Ephesus this, “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32)

Most of us have heard the Golden Rule. It isn’t just good advice. It is advice given by Jesus, as recorded by Matthew. Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:12)

The apostle Peter wrote this: Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. 10 For

“He who would love life
And see good days,
Let him refrain his tongue from evil,
And his lips from speaking deceit.
11 Let him turn away from evil and do good;
Let him seek peace and pursue it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
And His ears are open to their prayers;
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
(1 Peter 3:8-12) (verses 10-12 quote Psalm 34:12-16)

Jesus said in John 13:34-35, “34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” In Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus answered the scribes, 37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Our words reflect our heart. If we love one another, we will not tear each other down and our words will not be filthy or vulgar. Our words will not be offensive, but rather respectful and loving. That doesn’t mean we won’t point out wrongs. It means will speak the truth in love. This was a popular adage when I was growing up: “What would Jesus do?” When it comes to what we say and how we behave, it holds true. If Jesus would not have done it or said it, we should not either.

None of us is perfect; we will fall short. 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). When we fail, we must confess our sins and ask God’s forgiveness and we are assured of his loving forgiveness when we go to Him. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10)

My life has been much less than perfect and I have not always set a good example. I know God has forgiven me and I pray that my family also has. My family is not perfect, and we do not all share the same beliefs. The most I can do for my family is pray for them daily and love them where they are. I do this hoping someday they will choose to listen or ask why I made the choice to believe in and follow the Lord.

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