Generally we all have ideas of what is right or wrong, good or bad, helpful orfree speech 1 damaging.  We all have ideas of what we need to do to grow the good and slay the bad.  The Bible sometimes shocks our sensibilities and surprises us with connections between right thinking, correct behavior and the way to make good flourish and bad to die on the vine.

Some examples.  I was reading the book of Hebrews and came across this verse in chapter 3. “Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today’, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness”.  When we think about  being hardened by sins deceitfulness, we usually don’t connect that with encouraging people everyday.  But that is what the author of Hebrews says.

Another example.  We, as Christians all strive to be perfect or mature before the face of God.  We want to have control over our bodies.  What is the best way to accomplish that?  Read the Bible a lot?  Pray an hour or two a day?  Attend church a couple times a week?  What does James say in chapter 3 of his letter that we need to do to be perfect?  He says that the person who is never at fault in what they say is perfect.  It’s just that easy – control the tongue.
“We all stumble in many ways.  Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.” James 1:2.

Both of these verses refer to goals every Christian should have, and they both refer to our speech, the words that come out of our mouths.  These verses remind me of what Paul said in his letter to the Ephesians.  “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up…” (4:29)

Chapter four of Ephesians is primarily about the unity and maturity of the church, and how to make it strong and keep it strong.  A critical aspect of reaching and experiencing unity, maturity, and strength in the community of faith is being careful about our words.  Unfortunately, many Christians think little or nothing about the words that come their of our mouths.  We as North Americans are rooted and grounded in the idea of free speech and free expression, and feel justified in saying whatever is on our minds, and if people don’t like it, well, they just need to deal with it.  It’s their problem.  That is true if we are citizens of Canada, the U.S. or Mexico.  But the Bible tells us Christians that we are first and foremost citizens of heaven, of the Kingdom of God, and that we owe our allegiance to King Jesus.  Instead of encouraging free speech and free expression, the Bible places many limitations and restrictions on our speech, as seen in Ephesians.  “Do NOT LET ANY wholesome talk come out of your mouths.”  Big restriction!  “BUT ONLY what is helpful for building others up.”  Big limitation!  So much for free speech.

As we consider the admonitions from Paul, James and the author of Hebrews, let us strive put put a holy filter over our mouths and think before we speak, so that we build up the body of Christ.  Let us realize we fail God daily in this regard, and be quick to confess the sins of our speech, and reach out to our Savior for the help and guidance that only He can supply, to make sure our words are encouraging and are building others up.  God loves us and wants us to be happy, and controlling our tongue goes a long way towards living a life of peace and contentment with our King and our fellow man.

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