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Finding the Right Words to Say


Proverbs 13:3

I once read about an Ambassador from Spain to America who did not know the English language very well. In a meeting with an American diplomat they began to engage in some small talk, and so the Ambassador was asked if he had any children. The Ambassador tried to explain that unfortunately his wife could not have children. At first he said, "My wife is impregnable." Then looking at the blank stare on his American friend's face he said, "What I mean is that my wife is inconceivable." Even with that reply it was apparent to him that he had made matters worse, and so he thought for a moment, and with a smile finally said, "What I am trying to say is that my wife is unbearable."

We feel for the guy because we have been there, and done that. Finding the right word to say is a challenge even to those of us for whom English is our first language. Bridling our tongues is a matter of great and grave importance according to God's word. The content of our speech will shape the contours of our life (Prov. 13:3; 15:4), and the health of our speech is a telltale sign of our spiritual vitality (James 1:26; Eph. 4:29). The tongue may be a small member of our body, but like the rudder of a ship or the bit in a horse's mouth its impact far outweighs its size (James 3:1-12). Given that reality how might we do a better job at finding the right words to say? Let me share some thoughts that might act as a biblical mouthwash:

  1. Resolve to talk less and think more (Prov. 17:27). We often say things because we can say them rather than because they are sound and reasonable. Feel free not to have an opinion on everything.
  2. Resolve to bathe your words in God's Word (Col. 3:16-17). As God's word abides in us and we abide in it, the bad fruit of sinful speech will be pruned. The biblical script must become the teleprompter for what we need to say, and how we say it.
  3. Resolve to pray as you speak (Neh. 2:4-5). Imagine the difference it would make to our speech if we were in constant conversation with God. Talking to God would change our talk. Those who speak to God often speak best to others.
  4. Resolve to think often of eternity (Matt. 12:36-37). You and I may forget what we say but God does not. Our words will be resurrected just like our bodies, and they will either haunt us or vindicate the reality of our faith in Christ on that final day. What we say today counts for eternity.