Speech can be a used greatly for good or ill. Everywhere there are people who have been encouraged, challenged, or had a major life change because of a speech they heard or a conversation they had. On the other hand, there are just as many people who are discouraged, hurt, or even considered psychologically damaged because of words people have said. The problem isn’t words themselves, but how they are used. As we’re going to see, our speech can be used as a tool to worship God, or not.
Worship, in summary, is giving worth to something or someone. It is an “expression of reverence.” The way we can worship God with our speech is by using our words the way God designed and intended us to. This is the way we worship God with any part of our life: we surrender how we would desire things to be used, and instead give God back control to work His original plan and purpose in our lives.
The perfect image of God’s will and purpose for our lives can be found in the law of God. When Jesus came to earth to pay the price for our sins, He said that He did not come to destroy the law but to fulfill it (Matt 5:17). There was nothing wrong with the law of God - it is perfect. The issue is that we cannot fulfill the law perfectly, so, rather than giving us justification before God, the law left us at odds with God and in the crosshairs of His judgement (Romans 7:7-10). What is different for the Christian is that we see the law as a guide, a tutor, and something to show us the perfect will of God - yet we don’t look to it to be justified. No amount of working out the words of the law will make us right before God, only the grace and blood of Jesus can save us.
With that said, the law, and later Jesus, both show us to perfect will of God in every area of life, including speech.
Using Speech As Worship To God
I think most of the things we shouldn’t say are fairly obvious. We easily remember what our parents told us. “Don’t say it if it’s not true, unhelpful, or unkind.” However, this is a greater issue than we may realize. The book of James reminds us us it is detrimental to think that we can simply play God by worshiping Him with our words one moment, and then turn and use our words in a way He didn’t design us to.
"With it [the tongue, our words] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.” James 3:9-12
This is a very sobering reminder. It reminds me of the phrase you might have heard from your mom, “Do you kiss your mom with those lips?” after you cursed or something else.
So, we’re aware that God did not give us mouths to curse others, lie, and generally be unkind. But as a step further: how can we speak in a way that actually worships and glorifies God, and doesn’t merely avoid bad speech?
A simple way we could summarize the words we should speak is “truth in love."
Paul writes in Ephesians 4:15 that “…Speaking the truth in love, we [the church] are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ."
"Truth in love” is a great summary of how we should speak to people. The truth, as proclaimed in God’s Word is one of grace, encouragement, hope, and life. The truth God proclaims is one that reminds us that we are not perfect, yet in the same breath reminds us that He has hope for us because of His grace towards us. Here are some examples of things we ought to speak to people on a DAILY basis:
- When life is hard and people loose hope, God is good and has a plan.
- When people mess up, we have grace towards them, and remind them of the grace and love God has towards them.
- When things are going well, we rejoice and encourage, and remind people of the goodness of God.
- When faced with a difficult decision, we can pray for people, and remind them of God’s perfect guidance and plan.
- When people are discouraged as they follow God, we have a truth that our labor is not in vain.
God’s truth and love covers every situation we may face, good or ill. Our mouths were created, not to hurt or discourage, but to pass on the truth and love that God has for each and every one of us. However, since sin entered the lives of the human race, we’ve missed this great calling, but by the grace of God, we are given the opportunity to reclaim the God given purpose for our mouth and words.
Where Does the Change Come From?
The Bible isn’t into simplistic outward change. Jesus made clear that our words are not merely a speech problem but a heart problem.
"Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” -Jesus (Matthew 12:34)
What Jesus is saying is that you can have the best methods to change your speech in the world, but eventually, the heart will win out. And not only will the heart come to the surface, but God sees your heart throughout your entire life. You can’t fool God by only fixing your words without having a heart change.
The solution? We should strive for our words to glorify God, but we should not neglect the source of the issue. If we want a fruit tree of unkind words to stop producing fruit in our lives, we need to be proactive in destroying limbs, but we also need to continually ask for God’s grace, that He would pull the tree up by it’s roots.
So as you pray and seek to worship God with your words, let us use every failure of speech, and even our ongoing successes, as an opportunity to go to God and ask Him to continue to work in our hearts so that our words would have a long lasting change.
So will you take back the purpose of your words? We ought to realize the great calling we have on our lives. Not one where we merely avoid saying “bad” things, but where we take hold of the good words and life giving encouragement that we were created to speak. Will you speak in truth and love today?