What kind of Words Should Christians use?

Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing. Truthful words stand the test of time, but lies are soon exposed~ Proverbs 12:18-19 NLT


Most words fall into one of two categories:

 Life-giving and soul-sucking:

Life-giving words are instructive, helpful and motivating. The Bible tells us they are literally like honey to the soul (Proverbs 16:24). Life-giving words build others up and remind them in subtle and sometimes not so subtle ways human beings are the image-bearers of God and what we do matters to Him. A life-giving word from someone who cares is sometimes all it takes to begin the process of healing a hurt or restoring a wandering soul. Life-giving words cause others to feel cared for and confident about the role they play in this world. Life-giving words are not always “nice” (more on that later) but they always motivate us to become better versions of ourselves. Life-giving words have the power to propel people to true moral, spiritual and practical greatness.

 Soul-sucking words, on the other hand tear others down and crush the life out of people (Proverbs 12:18).

Soul-sucking words can be either cruel and insensitive or deceptive and misleading. Cruel and insensitive words are spoken selfishly with little thought to how they will affect the hearer. Sadly, cruel and insensitive words tend to be the words that stick with us the longest and make the most impact on how we see ourselves and other people. Insults, name-calling, cursing and general cattiness all fall neatly into the category of soul-sucking speech. These types of words have no place in the life of a Christian (Ephesians 4:29, 1st Peter 4:11). Deceptive words are by definition a little trickier to spot. Deceptive words often come in the form of worldly wisdom or subtly deceptive speech. Deceptive speech in its most obvious form would be outright lies, twisting truth, gossip and backstabbing (Proverbs 18:8, Proverbs 11:13, Romans 1:29, Galatians 5:14-15). Deceptive words sometimes sound legitimately wholesome and innocuous, at least on the surface. Sometimes they even come across as wise and life-giving but they have an edge to them that plants doubt rather than hope.  Deceptive words eventually lead all involved down a path of destruction.

 Christians universally place a high value on words, and for a whole lot of really good reasons. God has quite a lot to say on the subject of words. The Bible literally contains hundreds of verses instructing God’s people on the correct and incorrect use of words.

 That being said.

 Many Christians have bought into some erroneous and rather silly beliefs concerning speech. This flawed thinking is quickly becoming embedded in much of our Christian culture and it’s causing all sorts of problems and issues. People are being deceived, discipleship has become compromised and, in some cases, our ability to share the gospel and communicate truth to a dying world has been compromised.


 The first lie says that in order for a message or word to be life-giving, good and godly the words communicated must be “nice”, “encouraging” or “uplifting” to the hearer or reader. Those who have bought into this lie reject out of hand any message or statement that causes the hearer of said statement to feel guilty or uncomfortable about anything at all.

This is a problem because:

 If we assume this drivel to be true then logically Christians should get busy throwing out huge chunks of the Bible. This would include most of the Prophets, many of the Proverbs and vast portions of New Testament books. We should also seriously consider pitching parts of the Gospels, 1st and 2nd Corinthians, Galatians, Hebrews, James, 2nd Peter, 2nd Timothy, Jude and Revelation. All of these books contain warnings or passages that are far from “nice” ‘encouraging” and/or “uplifting” (Matthew 18:6, Mark 9:43-47, 1st Corinthians 6:9, Ephesians 5:5, Hebrews 6:4-6, 2nd Peter 2:4). The Bible as a whole is good and life-giving but’s it’s not always nice (Matthew 12:34, Romans 3:12-14, Galatians 5:12).


The second lie is essentially the inverse of the first lie: many have somehow been deceived into believing that it is more “authentic” or “real” to say what needs to be said in the bluntest and in some cases rudest way possible. Those who have bought into this drivel confuse political correctness with respect and believe that the only honest speech is raw speech. In my experience “raw speech” or “honest speech” is frequently just a thin cover for intentionally aggressive and cruel speech.

Here’s the thing:

 Truth lies almost always lies somewhere in the middle and, there is wisdom in striving for balance. Ephesians 4:15 is the gold standard of instruction concerning Christian speech, it instructs Christians to tell people the truth about their choices, even though truth can be unpleasant and hard to hear. It also commands speaking truth in a loving way (which is incredibly tough to do). When we use words in a loving AND truthful way the God of the universes uses us to help people to grow into Christian maturity and the image of Jesus Christ.

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