Do your words sometimes get you in trouble? Have you ever said something you wish you hadn't? Perhaps you were angry and made some cutting remarks, only to regret them later. What we say and how we say it can have a big effect on our lives, and the lives of others. Saying the right thing at the right time can even mean the difference between success and failure. That's why it's so important to think before we speak! In this study, you'll learn vital tips from the Bible about the wise use of your tongue. Applying them will improve your ability to get along with others and help you make more friends. But before you begin this study, be sure to get your Bible, a pen or pencil and some paper. Reading and writing out the scriptures that answer the questions asked will help you remember the important principles you'll be learning. 1. Can our words have a great impact on the lives of others? Summarize James 3:2-10. Can improper or careless words result in anger and fighting? Proverbs 18:6-7, 12:18 first part. But can the right words be soothing and of great benefit? Proverbs 12:18 (last part), 12:25, 15:4, 16:24. Each day we come in contact with many people - family, friends, teachers, employers and others. What we say and how we say it not only affects them, but also us, either positively or negatively. And once spoken, our words cannot be taken back! King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived (I Kings 3:11-12), knew and understood the importance of being careful with words. He gave specific guidelines about what to say and what not to say, how to say it and when to say it. 2. Did Solomon show that there is a time for everything, including a time to speak and a time to keep silent? Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7. Should one say the first thing that comes to mind, or think about it first before saying it? Proverbs 29:20, 15:28, James 1:19. It is tempting, especially when angry, to say the first thing that pops into your mind. But don't! Pause for a few seconds and think about what to say. You may decide to keep your mouth closed and wait for a better time and place to respond. Be sure that whatever you do say is fit for the occasion. 3. Will the person who gives a right answer at the appropriate time experience joy and delight? Proverbs 15:23, 25:11. Will he spare himself from trouble? Proverbs 21:23. 4. Notice what effect words can have on an angry person. Will a soft (gracious and polite) answer calm him, whereas an insult only make him angrier? Proverbs 15:1. Harsh words will usually lead an angry person to think his anger is justified. This could further upset him and even cause him to harm you in some way. By staying calm and not raising your voice, you will avoid unnecessary quarrels and friction. 5. Did Solomon stress the importance of always telling the truth? Proverbs 19:9, 20:17, 12:19, 22. Is being truthful one of the Ten Commandments? Exodus 20:16. There is often a temptation to mislead and deceive others, or to twist the facts in one's favor. But don't do it! Honesty is always the best policy, even if it hurts. Also avoid making rash or hasty promises that you know you won't be able to keep. Think twice before you promise to do something you may have to back out of, thereby making yourself a liar and hurting your credibility (Ecclesiastes 10:1) - Make sure you will be able to follow through with your promises. 6. Some people, it seems, are always talking, rarely giving anyone else a chance. They don't seem to know when to stop. But is the person who spares his words wise? Proverbs 15:2, 10:19, 17:27-28. If you are the type that dominates conversations, next time stop and think before you speak. Ask yourself: "Is my comment going to be helpful?" If in doubt, don't say it - just go ahead and listen. Most people who talk a lot are not good listeners because they are too busy thinking about what to say next. Therefore they miss important details, and will often interrupt with their own comments, or try to answer a matter before they even know the issues (Proverbs 18:13). Being a good listener goes a long way to building friendships, and you'll find yourself learning a lot more in the process! 7. Occasionally we meet boasters who brag about their abilities, importance or lofty plans for the future. Should a person think twice before boasting? Proverbs 27:1, James 3:5. Should he let someone else praise him instead? Proverbs 27:2. How much more rewarding and satisfying it is to receive recognition from someone else - perhaps an employer or a teacher - than to praise oneself. People will be more likely to believe good words spoken about you by others rather than by yourself.
In a crowd of people, all kinds of conversations can be heard - good and bad. (Photo by Warren Watson)
8. Is it best to avoid certain topics in our conversations? Ephesians 5:3-4, 11-12. 9. Will a wise person refrain from criticizing or putting people down and gossiping about them? Proverbs 11:12-13. What harm can be caused by gossip? Proverbs 16:28, 17:9, 26:20-21. One can end up hurting the reputation of another (often unjustly), and even separate good friends through gossip. Before repeating a matter, be sure it is truthful and won't harm the person you're talking about. If you know of something that could hurt the credibility and reputation of another, don't repeat it. If you can't say something nice about another person, why say anything at all? 10. Should we rather try to build up and encourage others? I Thessalonians 5:11, Ephesians 4:29. Show concern for others. Help and encourage them to do their best and excel in all areas of life. By looking for the good character traits in other people, we won't be so quick to find and point out their faults and shortcomings. 11. What is the great principle we should apply in our speech? Matthew 7:12. We should treat people the way we would like to be treated. This often also has a benefit for us because people tend to treat us the way we treat them. Our manner of speech will often determine this. Being friendly, honest and sincerely striving to encourage others will tend to motivate them to do the same for us. 12. Was King David careful about what he said? Psalm 39:1. Did he look to God for help to control his tongue? Psalms 19:14, 141:3. 13. Will God also give us the wisdom we need to temper our speech, if we ask Him? James 1:5, Proverbs 2:6-7, 3:5-6, Isaiah 50:4. Ask God daily for the wisdom to say the right thing at the right time. He will give you that wisdom, if you sincerely desire it, and are trying to do those things that please Him (I John 3:22). 14. Will the person who thinks before he speaks, who says what is proper and truthful, experience numerous blessings and benefits? Proverbs 13:3, 16:13, 22:11, I Peter 3:10-11. A person who is careful in what he says will enjoy peace of mind and be blessed in other ways, knowing that he has not offended others by careless or unkind remarks. He will not have to worry about lies catching up with him. But as the Bible and human experience show, failing to exercise control over what we say can create needless difficulties for ourselves and others. So guard your mouth. Try to always say the right thing at the right time. Be sure to think before you speak!