Words: Less Talk Less Sin

“When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.” (Proverbs 10:19)

Last week, James’ warned us about the weapons of mass destruction we carry around behind our teeth. More specifically, he warned us that because we carry sinful hearts behind our ribs we can expect the words that bubble up from there to be powerfully destructive, as well.

words_350No wonder James told us to be “slow to speak.” Solomon said the same thing here: Want to sin less? Then talk less. Or text less. Or Facebook less. Often, the quiet girl in the back is the wisest person in the room. She knows better than to fill up the air with words just because the quiet feels awkward.

Some of the best advice I’ve ever heard: If you don’t know what to say, don’t. When you’re not sure if you should say what you’re thinking, don’t. If you wonder if what you’re about to say might be hurtful to someone, stop. We can never unsay something, but we can usually say what needs saying after we take time to think about it.

Think: Is there anything you wish you could unsay from this last week? Anything you wish you would have said that you didn’t? Which happens more often?

Pray: Ask God to set off a warning alarm in your head any time you’re about to say something sinful.

Do: Plan a whole two-hour block sometime this week when you don’t say, write, or text any words to anyone. No fair sleeping.

Words: You’re Tubby!

“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” (Proverbs 12:18)

I was in junior high at a party at a skating rink that had occasional “couples skates” where they would dim the lights and play romantic songs. You’d pair up and hold hands with a girl and skate around. Kind of like dancing for people who don’t dance.

words_350I had a crush on this one girl, but I never had the nerve to ask her to skate. After it was over, she asked me why I didn’t skate with any girls. “No guts,” I admitted. She glanced at my belly and said, “Looks like you’ve got plenty of guts to me.”


Has anyone ever said something to you that caused what felt like physical pain? This proverbs says that words can split us open like a sword. For me, a hurtful comment can feel like open-heart surgery with a spork. What’s worse is that even though I’ve felt the pain of hurtful words, I’ve been the reckless slicer far too often.

Finally some good news, though: Wise people can use words to heal those verbal sword wounds. Wisdom is the key for turning words from weapons to bandages.

Think: Have you seen a wise person use words to help heal someone in pain? Who do you talk to when you feel like you’ve been sliced open by some reckless words?

Pray: Ask God for the wisdom to use your words to leave people feeling better instead of worse.

Do: Make a quick list of the top five wise word healers you know.

Words: Fight Angry Fires

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)

Have you spent much time playing with fire? Okay, it’s not the best habit, but fire is fascinating. To burn, fire needs fuel and oxygen. That’s why people trying to get a fire going use dry wood (or lighter fluid) and give the fire a little room to breathe. We even blow gently on a flickering fire to give it a little boost of air.

words_350Harsh words are like lighter fluid for the fire of anger. Use an edgy tone to squirt a few hard words onto the spark of an irritation and — fwoom! — instant inferno.

Instead, try this: Use a few gentle words to sprinkle a little kindness, a shower of understanding on a growing flame — and watch it die in a hiss of smoke. Gentle words are a way of removing the fuel anger needs to grow, of sucking away the air it feeds on to spread. Be a firefighter with words.

Think: Have you ever experimented with ways to put out a fire? How can you use gentle words in a similar way to cool down a conversation with a friend or family member?

Pray: Ask God to help you to be a fire-killer instead of a fire-starter when it comes to anger.

Do: Watch this PBS commercial and imagine if we all used our words to fight the fires of anger.

Words: Wait. Wait. Now!

“A man finds joy in giving an apt reply—and how good is a timely word!” (Proverbs 15:23)

Everybody knows that good comedy is all about timing. Hit the punch line too late or too early, and it’s just not funny. Hit the sweet spot, and it’s hilarious. You can say the same words and get an entirely different reaction.

words_350It’s not just humor. In every area of life, your words pack more or less punch depending on when you say them, as well as how you deliver them. In another proverb, the writer warns that a blessing that comes too early in the morning will be taken as a curse. (27:14) You know from personal experience that saying the right thing at the wrong moment can be a disaster.

On the flip side, wisdom tells us exactly when to drop that encouraging phrase or personal experience to relate to a friend’s pain. Wisdom tells us when it is best to say, “I’m sorry,” and when it’s best to wait for anger to cool. And wisdom picks the perfect moment to confront someone and when to let it pass. Wisdom has great timing.

Think: How’s your timing with helpful, funny, or sensitive words? What could you do to improve your timing?

Pray: Ask God for the wisdom to know when to speak, as well as what to say.

Do: Next time you see a great comedian in action, watch his or her timing. How does that help or hurt the funny?

Words: Sugar Words

“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” (Proverbs 16:24)

For all the destruction our words can bring, we’ve seen this week that words can also be used for healing, for encouragement, for taming out-of-control anger, and even more effectively when used in the right moment.

words_350And sometimes the right words are just sweet. Telling a friend what he or she needs to hear can actually bring pleasure that feels like eating a favorite dessert. In that way, pleasant, soothing words can be a gift, an act of service, an expression of God’s love for another person.

Do you see yourself as being available for this kind of service? Are you looking for those opportunities? Are you willing to have God use your words as a gift to the people in your life? Do you ask Him to give you pleasant words in the right moment to bring pleasure, healing, and joy to the people He puts in your path? It’s a gift anyone can give.

Think: How often do you think of your ability to use good words as a gift you can give to other people? How often do other people do that for you?

Pray: Ask God to make you willing and able to give the gift of pleasant words to your family members, friends, and even those who don’t always treat you well.

Do: Tune your radar this week to notice when someone is able to use words in a way that is pleasant and sweet to hear.

Words: Praise You?

“Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips.” (Proverbs 27:2)

We live in a culture of self-promotion. To paint the best possible picture of ourselves for others has always been human nature, but we’re turning it into an art form. Your school guidance counselor probably showed you how to do it very professionally.

words_350But anyone with a Facebook or Twitter or Instagram account will be way ahead of her. Most of us have spent hours carefully constructing those posts to make our online self-representation as cool (or as “not stupid” or as “original”) as we can. We want people to know what we’re good at.

The advice of this proverb is to retire from the self-promotion business. Words about how good you are will be much more powerful coming from other lips — and you’ll be more respected holding on to those words than handing them out to everyone you meet. That will free you up to use your words to promote others.

Think: What do you risk by not telling others about your accomplishments? What could it cost you? What do you have to gain by keeping quiet about what you’re good at?

Pray: Ask God to help you to avoid praising yourself and to trust God to promote you when He wants to through the words of others.

Do: Tune your radar this week to notice when people are self-promoting or promoting others with their words. Notice also how each impacts your opinion of those people.

Words: Best Words Ever

“I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.” (Psalm 34:1)

During the last couple of weeks, we’ve talked about how we can use our words to destroy and how we can use them to heal, encourage, and build each other up. But the best thing we can do with our words — by far — is to give praise to God.

words_350Why? For one, it’s the most obvious thing we can talk about. We are surrounded every day by God’s greatness and evidence of His love for us. Creation screams at us, “God is powerful, and He loves beauty!” Our soul screams at us, “I was hopeless without Jesus; then He rescued me!” To not talk about those things is as odd as finding an elephant in the frozen foods section of the grocery store one day and having nobody mention it.

We also praise Him because we love Him. He’s not just the distant deity we worship. He’s the Father who loves us, the one we’re learning to love with all of our heart, soul, mind, and body. When your best friend does something really amazing — or really nice to you — you talk about it. You praise her for it. It should be natural to do the same with God.

Think: Does praise for God come naturally to your lips? Why or why not? How could you be more intentional about giving praise to God?

Pray: Tell God three reasons why you think He is great.

Do: Make a short list of 10 of God’s best qualities. Make a point to mention each one to Him or someone else this week.