Speech Ethics (part 1)
John D. Telgren

The Bible has a lot to say about speech ethics. On the surface, the importance of a speech ethic may seem like one of the more trivial things concerning the Christian faith. However, there are enough verses that speak unambiguously to the seriousness of this matter.

In this series, we will focus mainly on two books, Proverbs and James.

It is amazing how much Proverbs deals with speech ethics. Words are not merely vibrations that proceed through the air. They are very powerful. The words of a person may not be able to bring the universe into existence or heal a sick person as the word of the Lord did, but they carry more power than what we give them credit for.

"Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones (Prov 16:24)."

Pleasant words can be very empowering. They can ultimately turn a fatalist loser into a winner. They can turn hatred into joy. They can heal wounds of past hurts. They can turn strength into fear. That is why Paul says, "I desire to speak five words with my mind so that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue (1 Cor 14:19)." Why, because words spoken and understood build up the body, and he said that all things should be done for edification (1 Cor 14:26).

Even though our speech can do wonderful things, it can equally do devastating things.

"There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword (Prov 12:18),"

"A worthless man digs up evil, While his words are like scorching fire (Prov 16:29)."

Words can bring healing, or they can destroy. Digging up evil will start a forest fire that can destroy a person's life, and even the church. That is why Proverbs 18:21 says, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue."

With great power comes great responsibility. God has given everyone great power by giving them the ability to speak. Just as one who works with high voltage, so we too need to work with our speech. It can be beneficial, or it can destroy. These final two verses speak of responsible speech.

" When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, But he who restrains his lips is wise (Prov 10:19)."

"Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; When he closes his lips, he is considered prudent (Prov 17:28)."