At the 1993 annual meeting of The American Heart Association, 300,000 doctors, nurses, and researchers met in Atlanta to discuss, among other things, the importance a low fat diet plays in keeping our hearts healthy. Yet during meal times, they consumed fat-filled fast foods such as bacon cheeseburgers and fries at about the same rate as people from other conventions. When one cardiologist was asked whether or not his partaking in high fat meals set a bad example, he replied, “Not me, because I took my name tag off.”
Seeing hypocrisy in the church has caused many people to fall away. Sadly there are some who claim to be Christians, and it’s in name only. These people often give the church a bad reputation. Many in the world look at the church and say that it runs rampant with hypocritical people.
Being a Christian means following Christ all the time. No natter the circumstances. We can’t just “take our name tag off” so to speak. People are always watching. They’re looking to us on how to act. 1 Thessalonians 2:9 reads, “For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.”
Paul and the other apostles showed the Christians at Thessalonica, by example, how to act. Notice what Paul says: “For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship.” The Thessalonians could look back and remember the example that the Apostles gave for them to follow. Are we like this? Or are we all talk? People will follow the examples that our actions portray.
The example that our actions set are powerful.
So the question is, “what kind of example are we setting?” We can have only two types of example–good or bad. Our example, whether good or bad, can decide the eternal fate of those that see our actions. Paul and the apostles set a great example for the church at Thessalonica.
Paul writes in Philippians 4:9, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” We see from this how Paul’s example was so good that he tells the Philippians to practice it and God would be with them. Are we confident enough to say this to another Christian? We must be careful that we show by the way we live that we truly believe what we preach to others.
In Proverbs 6, Solomon offers five items of advice. These five protective measures encompass everything from financial decisions to sexual purity.
In verses 1-5, Solomon advises his sons not to take on someone else’s debt. Please remember that this is not a reference to the compassion God expects from His people. This guidance isn’t even about assisting a family member in need. The crucial distinction occurs in the second verse. According to Solomon, this is an example of speaking before thinking. The victim fell into a trap he created with his own words. One can only speculate why someone would make such a hasty pledge. It could be for appearances or because you believe the other person will do something good for you in the future.
This warning makes me think of what Paul told the young preacher Timothy. “Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin” (1 Timothy 5.22 NASB1995). We should remember that if we praise someone before we know what kind of person they are, they may hurt our reputation if they turn out to be less than good. “Guilt by association” is something that a lot of people think is true. Think about the damage that someone else’s debt can cause. If they don’t pay, you’ll be on the hook for a debt you never owed in the first place! The person who doesn’t do what he needs to do could ruin your finances.
Solomon says to go immediately and ask the other party to remove you from the pledge. It would be best if you didn’t go to sleep until the other person lets you out of the promise. Solomon even says that if you have to, you should beg. Then, even though it’s unpleasant, you deliver yourself like a prey escaping the hunter. (This part of Proverbs 6 makes me want to talk about the “entitlement mentality” and how helping others isn’t always best for their personal growth, and how they should live within their means, but I’ll be good and stay on task.)
In verses 6 through 11, we are told not to be lazy. In this passage, Solomon tells us to look at the ant. Solomon praises the ant’s tenacity in the absence of a leader. Even though ants have a queen and use pheromones to talk to each other, this doesn’t change Solomon’s point. If you’ve ever watched ants, you know that they don’t need taskmasters to watch over them all the time. The ants take charge. Whatever the queen tells them to do, they do it right away. The bigger ant doesn’t crack his whip to make the smaller ones work harder. Even the Greek Aesop noticed this, using an ant as the main character in one of his stories. The ant worked hard to prepare for winter, while the grasshopper (originally a cicada) preferred to play. When winter came, the ants were happy, but the grasshopper came to ask for food. (It’s important to note that the ant showed no kindness in the early versions of the story. The grasshopper, or cicada, got to “reap what he had sown.”)
Again, the New Testament has a cousin to our text. Paul tells the people of Thessalonica that people who don’t work shouldn’t be allowed to eat (2 Thessalonians 3.10). Laziness creates poverty. Solomon says that if one is “twiddling his thumbs,” poverty appears as a “vagabond.” As an American, I prefer to use the term “hobo” rather than “vagabond” because it conjures a more familiar image for my fellow citizens. I don’t know if hobos still exist today, but there were many of them during the Great Depression. Trains took these (mostly) men all over the country. They would never “hit a straight lick with a crooked stick.” They even made a hieroglyphic language that they left for other hobos. These symbols told you which houses would give you food, which would share food in exchange for work, and which places would give you food if you talked about religion. (In some respects, I cannot help but compare this to the recent “Great Resignation. The hobos decided to take advantage of the economic downturn to abandon society. In some ways, the same is true of those who choose not to report to work after COVID-19 disruptions.)
In verses 12–15, Solomon tells us to look out for bad people. Solomon says you can find “tells” about these people if you look for them. Most of the time, we use the word “tell” in the context of poker. If someone gets a good hand, he might make a specific face. In the same way, other players know when he has a good hand. The same is true for his facial expressions or body language when he gets a bad hand. The wicked’s body language may show they want to do bad things. Their offensive language can also show who they are. As another implication, tells can also be used to talk to a partner. For example, a bad guy might communicate to a partner how to best ambush you. Solomon has already said we should avoid these situations at all costs.
Now we get to the part of Proverbs 6 that most of us know: the seven things that God hates (6.16-19). These sins are interesting because they start in the heart and take over the sinner’s actions. A haughty expression means more than just arrogance. It means that a person thinks he or she is better than others. And if he is better than other people, his will comes first. Even his whims are more important than what you need. So, his pride, shown by his eyes, comes out in his lying tongue. People who lie do it to get the upper hand in a situation or avoid getting in trouble if caught. See how arrogance leads to lying! Because people often tell lies to save their necks, the sinner shows that he cares more about himself than his neighbors. So, if he has to shed the blood of innocent people to help his cause, he will.
Once a sinner gets to this point, he plans to do bad things and is willing to put in whatever effort is needed to make them happen. After that, he will tell any lie, even if it means lying about someone else. Lastly, this sinner is ready to ruin other people’s relationships to get what he wants. You’ve probably heard that all seven of these sins were done by those betraying Christ, giving Him to the Romans. It shouldn’t be a surprise. Can you think of Caiaphas? He said that Jesus should die instead of the entire nation of Israel (John 11.47-53; 18.14). Caiaphas, Judas, and the religious leaders of the Jews all do things that are on the list of seven things that God hates. It may take more thought to put the pieces together, but I’m sure other sins will follow the same pattern (e.g., abortion).
The remainder of Proverbs 6 is devoted to sexual immorality. We’ve already said that young men like the thrill of new experiences that a “strange woman,” like a prostitute or an adulteress, can give them. Solomon spends some time here explaining why adultery is the more expensive of the two encounters. Although he does not condone illicit relationships with prostitutes, adultery is worse than those relationships. Adultery is a sin against God, the lawful spouse, the adulterous woman, and oneself. Prostitution is a sin against God, the prostitute, and oneself. (Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6.18-19 that sexual immorality is a sin against oneself. We don’t always think of ourselves as people who could be hurt.) “Can a man take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned?” (6.27). Of course, this is not true. Any sexual sin will hurt him.
But the young man pays a different price for his extramarital sex. Most English translations use awkward language in verse 26, making it hard to understand what Solomon meant. “…for the price of a prostitute is only a loaf of bread, but a married woman hunts down a precious life,” says the English Standard Version. In other words, a meeting with a prostitute is a transaction, meaning one exchanges goods or money for “services.” Solomon says that the prostitute will only cost you a loaf of bread, by comparison. But how can you make things up to the man whose wife you slept with? Sadly, the answer is that you cannot. The Law said that if the young man stole property, he had to pay back the total amount. But he can’t compensate for what he stole by sleeping with another man’s wife. Maybe this is why God made adultery a crime punishable by death in the Law.
In chapter seven, Solomon warns his sons about “Lady Folly.” We’ll look at this chapter again next time, Lord willing.
In Psalm 19:14, David says, “May the words of my mouth be acceptable in your sight.” Knowing that the author of scripture is God Almighty, David hopes that the words he speaks would be impacted by his knowledge of the Law. Shouldn’t we long for the same thing as Christians? We know who the author of the Bible is, we understand the way we are called to live and speak, and that should influence our words. The Bible is very clear on how we are to speak.
Our words are a direct reflection of our faith. James 1:26, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” Do you call yourself a Christian but fail to control your words? James would say we are deceiving ourselves. Our speech is directly impacted by our religion. Our faith should change our speech and make it stand out from the world.
The Bible also gives us a very sobering warning in Matthew 12:36-37. Jesus says, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” On that day will we find justification or condemnation from the words we have spoken? We should use this knowledge to help guard our speech. Scripture also tells us in Luke 6:45 that, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” We can know the condition of our hearts by what is contained in our words.
Our tongue has a way of getting us in trouble. Ever heard the saying, “Keep your words soft and sweet because you never know when you may have to eat them”? We can do a lot of damage if we aren’t careful.
On every car there’s this handy little device called a fuel filter. A fuel filter is in between your car’s engine and the gas tank. Its job is to keep all the sediment and dirt that accumulates in the gas tank over time from getting to the engine. Basically it keeps impurities from destroying your engine. Our words need a fuel filter between the mind and the mouth. Think about what you are about to say. Is it impure or harmful in any way? Don’t say it. President Calvin Coolidge was famously known as a man of few words. His nickname was “Silent Cal.” His wife, Grace Goodhue Coolidge, told the story of a young woman who sat next to her husband at a dinner party. She told Coolidge she had a bet with a friend that she could get at least three words of conversation from him. Without looking at her he quietly retorted, “You lose.” Coolidge understood very well the value of using only carefully considered words—and those being few in number.
We filter our words and carefully choose them because, like David, we understand who we belong to when we are Christians. God now owns our words and we use them to glorify Him in everything. God’s Word should affect our own words.
In Psalm 19:14 David says, “may the words of my mouth be acceptable in your sight.” In the previous verses of this chapter David writes about the perfect law of the Lord. Moved by the knowledge that the author of scripture is God almighty, David hopes that the words he speaks would be impacted by his knowledge of the Law. This is something we must long for as Christians. We know who the author of the Bible is, we understand the way we are called to live and speak, and that should influence our words. The Bible is very clear on how we are to speak.
Our words are a direct reflection of our faith. James 1:26, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” Do we call ourselves Christians but fail to control our words? James would say we are deceiving ourselves. Our speech is directly impacted by our religion. Our faith should change our speech and make it stand out from the world.
The Bible also gives us a very sobering warning in Matthew 12:36. Jesus says, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” On that day will we find justification or condemnation from the words we have spoken? We should use this knowledge to help guard our speech.
Scripture also tells us in Luke 6:45 that, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” We can know the condition of our hearts by what is contained in our words.
Our tongue has a way of getting us in trouble. Ever heard the saying, “keep your words soft and sweet because you never know when you may have to eat them”?We can do a lot of damage if we aren’t careful. On every car there’s this handy little device called a fuel filter. A fuel filter is in between your car’s engine and the gas tank. Its job is to keep all the sediment and dirt that accumulates in the gas tank over time from getting to the engine. Basically it keeps impurities from destroying your engine. Our words need a fuel filter between the mind and the mouth. Think about what we are about to say. Is it impure or harmful in any way? Then don’t say it.
President Calvin Coolidge was famously known as a man of few words. His nickname was “Silent Cal.” His wife, Grace Goodhue Coolidge, told the story of a young woman who sat next to her husband at a dinner party. She told Coolidge she had a bet with a friend that she could get at least three words of conversation from him. Without looking at her he quietly retorted, “You lose.” Coolidge understood very well the value of using only carefully considered words—and those being few in number. We filter our words and carefully choose them because like David, we understand who we belong to when we are Christians. God now owns our words and we use them to glorify Him in everything.
Psalm 19 is a beautiful tribute to the perfection of Scripture. Like David, each one of us should strive to let God’s word motivate us to live more like Christ in every way.
Research shows that the average person speaks at least 7,000 words a day, while many (you know who you are) speak much more than that. Think about what that means. 7000 words that will leave an imprint on those who hear. That’s an incredible opportunity that we are given…or maybe it’s a bad thing?
How do we use our words? As Christians those 7000 words should help us fulfill the command given to “make disciples” (Mt. 28:18-20). That begs the question, what should those 7000 words contain? Even more, what am I saying with those words?
We have the responsibility to share the good news with others, so what are my words doing to help accomplish this goal? Colossians 4:6 tells us what our daily speech should consist of. But first, notice the context. Colossians 4:5 says, “walk in wisdom towards outsiders, making the best use of the time.”
We have been called to make the best use of the time. Ephesians 5:15-16 reads, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” How do we do this? Colossians 4:6 tells us it’s by talking the right way. “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”
If we want to walk with wisdom and be effective towards those in the world, we must use the proper words. As Christians, our speech should be attractive. “Let you speech always be gracious.” Gracious is defined as, “A winning quality or attractiveness that invites a favorable reaction.” What does it mean to look attractive? We use this word to describe someone or something that has favorable qualities that we enjoy. Applying that to our speech, it must ALWAYS be described this way. There should never a moment where we stop.
Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” We want people to leave conversations feeling better than when they first saw us. We want people to see Jesus in our speech.
We must always try our best to use attractive words. Always look for ways to encourage and help others with our speech. This means on the internet or in person. Our words are attractive when they are sincere and honest. We are called to have attractive speech, and the words we use must be genuine and real. Not saying them to sound holy or to look good, but out of love and concern for the souls of those who hear.
Someone asked if traffic had increased on our little country road. My mother replied that we had more traffic than the nearby town. This response is an example of hyperbole. Hyperbole has long been used rhetorically for effect. So, was my mother lying? It seems that in recent years some are equating hyperbole to lying. Critics routinely called our nation’s previous president a liar because of his frequent use of hyperbole. Reuters published an article in 2015 about how the president’s habit, as extolled in his Art of the Deal, might backfire against him (Flitter and Oliphant). They were correct.
Consider the treatment that the word “hyperbole” receives from Webster’s Dictionary, as demonstrated in the original 1828 edition and 2021 online version. The former is more nuanced.
“In rhetoric, a figure of speech which expresses much more or less than the truth, or which represents things much greater or less, better or worse than they really are. An object uncommon in size, either great or small, strikes us with surprise, and this emotion produces a momentary conviction that the object is greater or less than it is in reality. The same effect attends figurative grandeur or littleness; and hence the use of the hyperbole which expresses this momentary conviction.” (Webster)
And here is what Merriam-Webster tells modern students of English:
“: extravagant exaggeration.”
In other words, as noted by Daniel Webster himself, hyperbole might reflect one’s emotional state rather than a conscious decision to deceive. However, the successful use of hyperbole requires an unbiased and knowledgeable audience. In other words, they must be able to understand you are exaggerating for effect.
Even so, we admit people can use hyperbole to manipulate. Perhaps, this is the type of hyperbole usage that caused President Trump’s political enemies to call him a liar. For example, was he the “best jobs president?” He did create an economic environment that led to historic job growth. However, if God allows time and the United States to continue, another president may create even more jobs. Hence, we can only qualify his statement. The truth as to whether his message is a lie boils down to intent, which may be something requiring omniscience to determine.
We asked at the outset, with our title, whether hyperbole is a sin. It might be helpful to know that the Bible contains hyperbole. Jesus used hyperbole in Mark 10.25.
“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (NASB1995)
What about Jesus’ usage of hyperbole in Matthew 5.29-30?
“If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.” (NASB1995)
How would you qualify our Lord’s speech? Was He lying? Certainly not! Clearly, He is using exaggeration for rhetorical effect. In the latter case of hyperbole cited, He says that you should be willing to do whatever it takes to enter heaven, even if it seems unreasonable or extreme to you since your entry into heaven is of greater importance than anything sacrificed.
If people equate hyperbole with lying today, it seems more likely an indictment of our public education system’s failure or an unwillingness to evaluate the intended purpose of its usage fairly. Someone may be acting too nitpicky. But we do remind the Christian desirous of communicating the Gospel to others that Paul commands us to ensure our speech’s soundness is beyond reproach (Titus 2.7-8). There are groups with whom we must exercise caution since they take things literally, primarily children and those on the autistic spectrum. Neither should we use hyperbole derogatorily since James cautions us not to use the same tongue to praise God while cursing men (James 3.8-10). Otherwise, our hyperbole use may be the greatest seasoning we can add to our speech when making a point. As with all communication, it is best to season it with grace (Colossians 4.6).
David spoke of his tongue as a pen (Ps. 45:1) and his enemies’ tongues as sharp swords (Ps. 57:4). We learn that God hates a tongue which forms lies (Prov. 6:17). Isaiah prophesied a future time so happy that it would case “the tongue of the dumb [to] sing” (Isa. 35:6). The ungodly tongue is described by Jeremiah as a “deadly arrow” (Jer. 9:8). James calls the unruly tongue a “fire” (Js. 3:6).
The tongue is unique among the body’s members. It has so many uses. With taste buds, it judges the palatability of the food we consume. With sensitive nerves, it screens the temperatures of the food and drink which enter the mouth. William McPherson, who lost his sense of sight, hearing, and all four limbs in a mining explosion, used his tongue to read the Bible in Braille. Coordinating with brain and various, undergirding muscles, the tongue is that powerful tool of communication responsible for speech and song. Like so much of what God created, it is a neutral invention. According to how it is used, the tongue is either a blessing or curse upon families, communities, and nations. Benjamin Franklin wrote, “A slip of the foot you may soon recover, but a slip of the tongue you may never get over.” How can we identify a tongue positively used?
A POSITIVE TONGUE WILL NOT BACKBITE. Those who wield their tongues positively will say something nice, or at least say nothing at all, about an occupant on the “rumor mill.” in fact, we should use our tongues to stop the backbiting of others (Prov. 25:23). A Welsh proverb goes, “Lord, remind us often that a gossip’s mouth is the devil’s mailbag.” Remember, there’s only one thing more difficult than unscrambling an egg and that’s unspreading a rumor. We wish only the best for others. We don’t want to contribute to another’s harm or embarrassment by saying or repeating something evil about them behind their back (Ps. 15:1; Rom. 1:30; 2 Cor. 12:20).
A POSITIVE TONGUE WILL SPEAK GOD’S WORD. On multiple occasions, the psalmist pledged to use his tongue this way (71:24; 119:172). When opportunities with our neighbors and friends clearly present themselves, how can we refrain our tongues from speaking Bible truth and divine expectations? When the Bible is disparaged in our presence, how can we hold back our tongues from defending words more precious than gold? God’s Word contain “glad tidings” (Acts 13:32; Lk. 8:1; Rom. 10:15).
A POSITIVE TONGUE WILL SPEAK WHOLESOME WORDS. The Bible praises those who use wholesome words (Prov. 15:4; 1 Tim. 6:5). Profanity, vulgar stories, suggestive language and sexual innuendos do not drop off of a positive, wholesome tongue. Instead, we speak words that improve and sustain our good character.
A POSITIVE TONGUE WILL BE BRIDLED. That’s how you know who is religious (Js. 1:26). A hot head and a positive tongue don’t rest in the same skull. A blessing tongue and a cursing tongue do not lead to the same end (1 Pet. 3:10-11). A hypocritical tongue and a sincere tongue cannot belong to the same individual (1 Jn. 3:18). Self-control includes tongue-control.
Someone has written, “To speak kindly does not hurt the tongue.” It may only be about three inches long, but it can be trained not to do miles of damage. It can be positively controlled. A bridle for the tongue is a necessary tool which, when used, will cause one to be a shining light in the house of God.
This word has no positive meaning. Fouling on a spark plug means it’s time to replace it. A foul smell is an unpleasant one. Fouling in the barrel means it’s time to clean your gun. In sports, a foul is usually bad for your team.
In older English translations, “foul” is used to describe something impure, unholy, or evil (Mark 5.8; Luke 6.18; Revelation 16.13). Regardless, we understand that something foul is not what we want attributed to our character or in contact with our senses.
Are our words foul (Eph. 4.29)? Unwholesome here is σαπρός (sapros), which means “rotten, bad, or harmful.” It describes any kind of speech that has no positive effect or worth. Christians, there is no world in which cursing is excluded from this definition.
Consider the following:
I Corinthians 9.19ff encourages us to follow culture as long as it doesn’t violate God’s law. Even our secular culture recognizes that some words are not appropriate. Every culture has a set of words, phrases, postures, etc. that are offensive or recognized as inappropriate. These are σαπρός, and have no place in our lives.
I Peter 3.10 points out that our words have an effect on our quality of life. This includes avoiding lies and evil speech. Evil here is κακός (kakos), which means “bad, injurious, harmful, or wrong.” Lots of words fall under this category, but why are some exempting curse words? How do those not fit σαπρος or κακός?
In the last few years, even some theologians have argued that cursing is not under the purview of these passages. Far too many Christians use words that our culture understands to be curse words.
Ephesians four is a chapter about leaving our old lives behind. Part of leaving our old self behind is controlling our speech and using it to encourage others (28). By using foul language (σαπρος), we grieve (offend, distress, cause to become sad) the Holy Spirit (29)!
If we know that our words can have an effect on the Spirit that translates our deepest emotions and loss for words into meaningful petitions to God (Romans 8.26, 27), why would we use words that could very easily be described as worthless, harmful, or wrong?
I am not seeking to get into a debate about the outcome of the 2020 general election. However, everyone can agree that Trump has insisted that he won the election and has a team of lawyers trying to prove it. Again, whether he is correct is not my point. However, I wish to point out that Trump’s lawyers offer the affidavits from a few hundred people as evidence of voter fraud. For example, there are 220 affidavits in Michigan alone. I understand that most news outlets have moved on and ignored Trump’s legal team’s efforts.
Yet, lying on an affidavit is perjury. It is as if you have lied on the witness stand in court while under oath. Perjury is a felony. In many states, felons cannot even vote. So, in Michigan, and other States, hundreds of people testify something that, if false, would make them criminals and, ironically, prevent them from voting in an election in the future. Here is the question. Do people care about lying anymore? We have a former President who was impeached but not convicted for committing perjury because the subject matter of his lie concerned sexual relations with his intern. People dismissed it as political maneuvering by Republicans about a private matter, “just sex.”
To say, “A man’s word is his bond,” is no longer fashionable, it seems. When did you last have a “verbal contract” with someone? So, it would not surprise me that people would ignore the affidavits of hundreds of people. We are so accustomed to people lying for political expediency that we believe people would become felons to achieve their political goals. I would hope that Christians give greater value to their words. Indeed, Jesus told us that our testimony is our bond.
In Matthew five, Jesus discusses how the men of his day diluted their promises with unnecessary verbiage. In reading about the culture of first-century Judea, I noted that if a man wanted to create a loophole for himself, he would swear by something temporary, like his head’s hair. However, if he were making a promise he intended to keep, he would swear by the Temple or something invoking God. Jesus says, “But make sure your statement is, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil origin.” (Matthew 5.37 NASB) Jesus reminded them that the principle they were violating was that one must keep his vow to the Lord (Matthew 5.33).
The wise man of God reminds us that it is better to make no promise at all than to promise and fail to keep our word (Ecclesiastes 5.4-5). Under the Old Law, Moses commanded, “If a man makes a vow to the Lord, or takes an oath to put himself under a binding obligation, he shall not break his word; he shall act in accordance with everything that comes out of his mouth” (Numbers 30.2 NASB). The judge, Jephthah, learned this the hard way. Jephthah made a foolish vow to God that he would offer as a sacrifice whatever met him at his house when returning victorious from battle (Judges 11.30-31). Little did Jephthah know that it would be his daughter who would first greet him upon his return. Judges 11.34 states that Jephthah’s daughter was his only child. Thus, Jephthah grieved when she greeted him.
To her credit, Jephthah’s daughter told her father to keep the promise made with God (Judges 11.36). Given God’s feelings about human sacrifice (cf. Jeremiah 32.34-36), one wonders if Jephthah had to take her life. Jephthah’s daughter’s request was to bewail her virginity with her friends. Women of antiquity, sadly, established their worth by having children. She would be childless. Therefore, there is the possibility that Jephthah’s daughter lived a life of perpetual virginity since that is the emphasis of the last verses of Judges 11. There is no mention of her death.
Yes, Jephthah kept the promise, understanding the worth of one’s words. He knew his obligation to God. Therefore, let us observe great care, as Jesus taught when making promises to others. Neither let us seek ways of getting out of our commitments. May our words always carry the weight of sworn testimony before the Judge of the Court of the Most High!
Quite possibly one of the most important actions we can do as Christians is encouraging others. With these words we have the ability to build up and unify the church. Encouragement is a very prevalent concept in scripture, but let’s focus on just one passage.
Ephesians 4:29, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”
Paul commands us to refrain from unwholesome words. This word, “unwholesome,” would literally be translated as “rotten.” A sane person doesn’t eat rotten fruit or spoiled meat. Why? Because it isn’t safe. It tastes bad. It smells bad. And it’s lost its appeal. Our speech shouldn’t be rotten; that is, our speech should never be filled with words that are bad or unwholesome to the extent of being harmful–words that tear people down. In our new walk in Christ, we should be thoroughly devoted to encouragement, not tearing others down.
So we must ask, what is good speech and what does it sound like? Simply put, this would be words that build people up, words that help us reach eternity, words that brings unity and peace, and words that help to encourage and exhort.
For example, you would say “Georgia is a great team” instead of “they are the worst team ever.” You would say, Carl you’re looking extra handsome today.” On a serious note, we should be saying words that aren’t negative, that are free from gossip and sin.
When Scripture talks about our words, it’s talking about positive versus negative. It is not necessarily a word that is bad, but it is focused on how our words are used. So, how are we using our speech? Are people around me encouraged by what I say? Or are they torn down and destroyed?
The Christian walk is to be filled with encouraging words. Specifically, Paul says use words that bring about edification (that which builds up) and that fits the need of the one who hears it. He says in verse 29 that our words can bring grace to those who hear. The word grace here is “the showing of human favor.” When we use edifying words we are showing others that we favor them. We care about them and want what is best.
Our new life in Christ is defined by our speech. Speech that stands out from the world. Speech that is clearly seen as different and appealing. May we also look for ways to encourage and build up our church family.