We have all heard the admonition to "think twice before speaking once." It reminds us to choose our words wisely and helps prevent us from saying things that we might regret. Most of us can remember times when we have said something inappropriate or offensive to another person and then immediately wished that we hadn't said it. We are equipped with a conscience, an inner voice that gives us a sense of what is right and wrong, and this voice alerts us when we have misspoken. Our conscience is given to us by God, and He gives it to help us detect and reject sinful behavior and to live in accordance with His will. Charles Wesley asks God for a "tender conscience" in his hymn, I Want a Principle Within. Relevant scripture verses include Romans 9:1, Romans 2:14-15, 1 Peter 3:21, and Hebrews 8:10.
God tells us in His Word how He wants us to speak to others. Peter says "For let him who wants to enjoy life and see good days keep his tongue from from evil and his lips from deceitful speech" (1 Peter 3:10). Paul tells us "Let your conversations be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone" (Colossians 4:6). Solomon is less subtle when he says "Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise bring healing" (Proverbs 12:18). He adds "The Lord detests lying lips, but He delights in men who are truthful" (Proverbs 12:22). Paul also cautions us to never use obscene or profane language (Ephesians 5:4, Colossians 3:8). God desires that we choose words that demonstrate love, kindness, humility, honesty, and self-control. Accordingly, the Holy Spirit helps guide us in what we say and do so that we can have a clear conscience (Galatians 5:16, 22-26, Romans 8:1-6, Acts 24:16). We should be aware that although some things we say may not seem inappropriate to us, they might be perceived as offensive or presumptuous by others; all the more reason to "think twice". We are told to be "slow to speak" in James 1:19. If we aren't sure whether our words are going to be appropriate, the best thing is to say nothing. Sometimes, God just wants us to be quiet (Psalm 46:10)! At other times, God Himself will give His faithful servants the words that He wants them to speak (Jeremiah 1:7-9, Matthew 10:19-20, Luke 12:11-12, Acts 4:8-13).
Perhaps our best advice on how to speak comes from Paul in Colossians 3:17: "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." We should try to always choose our words wisely and carefully and in so doing, honor and please God. When we fall sort of this goal and are alerted by our conscience, we should summon the courage and humility to acknowledge our mistake, express remorse, and resolve to do better. The Disciple Group suggests that you incorporate these familiar words into your prayer time this week and every week: "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer" (Psalm 19:14).