How We Speak

Does what you say matter?  Does how you say something matter?  Does our communication matter?  Of course it does.  Unfortunately, many Christians speak as the world speaks.  Can a Christian swear?  How about curse?  How about casting insults or degrading others?  Let's dig in to these very questions.


To be a Christian means to be "Christ-like."  If we are to be "Christ-like," then we must pattern ourselves after Jesus.  This means that we pattern ourselves after how Jesus walked and how he talked.  Our actions and our words matter.


James 3:1-12 (KJV) addresses these concerns:


"My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.  For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.


Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body.  Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth.  Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!  And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.  For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind:  But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.


Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.  Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.  Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?  Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh."


As James indicates, can a fountain send forth sweet water and bitter?  Or, in other words, can a spring produce salt water and fresh water.  The answer is obviously, "No."  Bitter water will corrupt sweet water.  Salt water will corrupt fresh water.  We are the same.  Ungodly communication corrupts Godly behavior.  We can't be both ungodly and godly at the same time.  It's one or the other.


So what kind of communication is ungodly (bitter water or salt water)?

  • Swearing (James 5:12; Matthew 5:34,37).  Swearing can be defined as taking an oath and cursing.  (We will address the cursing aspect next.)  In swearing, we make a solemn declaration.  Why is this offensive?  Jesus and James both, "Let your yes be yes and your no be no."  As a child of God, we should be able to stand on our word.  We shouldn't need to qualify our words with something like, "I swear."  Why do you need to make a solemn declaration on a statement you make?  We shouldn't need to.  Also, James says that the reason we don't make a solemn declaration is so that "we don't sin and be condemned."
  • Cursing (James 3:1-12; see also Philippians 1:27; 1 Peter 1:15).  Cursing means to utter offensive words, usually in anger or annoyance.  There are two main issues with cursing.  First, curse words generally follow anger, which is uncontrolled.  Second, curse words leave a bad impression on those who hear them.  Mainly, though, curse words flow from an unclean heart.  This is addressed in James 3.
  • Gossip / Slander (Proverbs 11:13, 16:28, 17:4, 20:19, 26:20; Romans 1:29; 2 Corinthians 12:20).  Gossipers and Slanderers have no place in the Kingdom of God.  Gossipers (telling "secrets") and slanderers (character assassins) have a strong root of bitterness and sin that must be dealt with by the Holy Ghost.  "If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all."  
  • Lying (Proverbs 6:17, 12:22, 17:20, 26:28; Matthew 15:19).  Telling an untruth indicates a spiritual lack of maturity.  Jesus is the way, the TRUTH, and the life.  Therefore, we are to proclaim the truth to all generations.
  • "Negative Nancy" - Life is full of ups and downs.  The Bible even tells us that it "rains on the just and the unjust," so we know that will have to deal with negative "things" in life.  However, we have the hope and promise of eternal life.  Therefore, we shouldn't present a "negative" front.  We have the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords living within our heart.  What can be more exciting?

The issues mentioned above, if present, indicate a real problem in the heart of the a believer.  We can't be a follower of Christ if we are swearing and cursing.  We can't be a child of the King if we are gossiping and slandering others.  We can't be a Christian if we are lying.  And we can't represent the Lord of Lords if we are a "Negative Nancy."  We have the greatest gift, eternal life, from the greatest to ever walk the Earth, and He just happened to create the heavens and the Earth, and our communication should reflect Him.