2 TIMOTHY 2:14-26
14Remind them of this, and warn them before God that they are to avoid wrangling over words, which does no good but only ruins those who are listening. 15Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth. 16Avoid profane chatter, for it will lead people into more and more impiety, 17and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18who have swerved from the truth by claiming that the resurrection has already taken place. They are upsetting the faith of some. 19But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who calls on the name of the Lord turn away from wickedness.”
20In a large house there are utensils not only of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for special use, some for ordinary. 21All who cleanse themselves of the things I have mentioned will become special utensils, dedicated and useful to the owner of the house, ready for every good work. 22Shun youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 23Have nothing to do with stupid and senseless controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. 24And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, patient, 25correcting opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth, 26and that they may escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
The amount of attention Paul gives to the issue of how church people use words is quite surprising. You'd think issues of greater importance would be discussed more -- like the end of the world, the backsliding of believers, the materialism of the day, the evil powers of the state, etc. In truth, how we use words is important.
Paul would be in complete agreement with James who writes in James, chapter 3:7-10:
7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.
Careless, course, mean-spirited, malicious, slanderous, gossip-filled, mischievous, divisive, contentious use of words is the cause of many terrible things. Trace back to the root source of many troublesome things, you'll almost always find a conversation that should not have taken place. Apostle James says in a previous verse, v.6, "The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell."
In Paul's own passage he reminds Timothy to tell others: "to avoid wrangling over words ... avoid profane chatter ... have nothing to do with stupid and senseless controversies ... the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome ... " Whether in Paul's day or ours, to tame the tongue and exercise self-discipline in ways that honor others and the Lord takes immense amounts of grace, patience, and godly perspective. The far easier thing is to let it rip with our mouths how we feel about whatever is on our minds. To speak freely is a right. But to speak freely in ways that hurt others or that distort the truth is a wrong.
Our words -- our ability to speak -- is an incredible gift of God. With words, we can heal the sick, cast out demons, uplift the downcast, dispel doubt, shed the light of truth, speak out for justice, speak for the voiceless, give glory to God, express profound and simple love, make others laugh, heal memories, say a prayer, convey our joy and thanks, create beauty, convince the mind, move the heart -- so, so many wonderful things -- that it would be an utter shame to use this most amazing of God's gifts to destroy those whom God loves.
Therefore, let's move entirely in the God-glorifying, life-affirming, hope-releasing, heart-healing direction of using our words as the Lord intends.
If you agree, please say 'Amen'.
Thank you, I just heard your resounding 'Amen'.
May the Lord bless you mightily today and may the Lord use your words to build up others in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.