What God Says About Our Words
I don’t know if you have ever had your mouth washed out with soap, but it is not a fun experience. The soap tastes terrible, and the aftertaste lasts a long time. You see, in many houses certain words are “off limits.” If children get caught saying these “dirty words,” then their parents “clean up” their mouths with a good soap washing. Many parents do this to teach their children how important words can be.
The Bible says that your words are very important. Jesus Himself said that how a person talks determines whether that person will be saved or lost (Matthew 12:36-37). The book of James has almost an entire chapter that talks about how powerful the tongue is, even though it is so little (James 3). James said that the tongue is very dangerous. Do you know how dangerous a single, small match can be? If you light a match and throw it on the ground in the woods, that little match can set the entire forest on fire. James wrote that the tongue is just like that match. It is a little body part, but it can cause big trouble if we are not careful.
How can we know what we should say and what we should not say? The apostle Paul gave us clear instructions about how to use our tongues. He said that we should only say things that are good for building people up and helping them to be better (Ephesians 4:29). In the movie Bambi, Thumper—Bambi’s rabbit friend—said that his mom told him that if you can’t say something good, don’t say anything at all. That is basically what Paul said.
This rule shows us that we should never say bad words or curse words. It also tells us that we should not tell dirty jokes. The apostle Paul told the Christians at Ephesus that there should be no “obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving” (Ephesians 5:4). Many times, children and teenagers use bad words and tell dirty jokes so that they will look “cool” or fit in with other people who do these things. But we must remember that Christians are different from the world, and if being “cool” means that we have to cuss, then we should not want to be “cool” and fit in with that crowd. Sometimes, young people think that it makes them look like a grown-up if they can cuss like the adults do. When we read about Jesus, however, we find that He did not use curse words or bad language, nor did He tell dirty jokes. He is the adult that we should try to be like, not the movie stars on television who are disobeying God.
Also, when thinking about Paul’s rule to say only good things, we see that we should not take the name of the Lord in vain. One of the Ten Commandments says: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain” (Exodus 20:7). Using the Lord’s name in vain means using God’s name when you are not really thinking about God or Jesus. You have probably seen on TV when a person is really surprised, she might say, “Oh my God!” “Good Lord!” “Lordy, Lordy!” or “Jesus Christ!” That person is not really thinking about God or Jesus; she is simply using their names for no reason. That is using God’s name in vain. We should never do that, God takes His name very seriously. In fact, in one Old Testament story, a man cursed and misused God’s name and was stoned to death at the command of God (Leviticus 24:10-23).
As you can see, our words can get us into big trouble. James said that all kinds of animals can be tamed, but no man can tame the tongue (James 3:8). What did James mean when He said the tongue couldn’t be tamed? When a person trains a dog, that dog can be taught to fetch, roll over, and do many other tricks. Dogs can also be taught to “be friends” with other animals that they normally might eat. A well-trained dog can be taught to be around chickens, cats, and goats and never bite them or hurt them. In fact, if a dog is trained well enough, the master of the dog does not even need to be near the dog in order for it to obey. The master can simply turn the dog loose and it will do exactly what the master wants it to do. The tongue, however, is not like that. We can never let our tongue “run loose.” We must always be careful and consider what we should say. There will never be a time in our lives when we can stop thinking about our words.
Your words are very powerful. With them you can build others up and make people feel good, or you can hurt yourself and others. Remember Paul’s rule, and don’t let bad things like curse words or using God’s name in vain come out of your mouth.