1) Do you ever say things you wish you could take back? Like what?
When we think about what the bible says about speaking, maybe the first two things to come to mind are commandments: (Exodus 20)
7 “Never use the name of the Lord your God carelessly. The Lord will make sure that anyone who carelessly uses his name will be punished.
16 “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.”
2) Do you think about these commandments ever? How do you interpret them?
Looking for practical wisdom, we should always consult proverbs.
- 12:18 Careless words stab like a sword, but the words of wise people bring healing.
- 12:22 Lips that lie are disgusting to the Lord, but honest people are his delight.
- 14:3 Because of a stubborn fool’s words a whip is lifted against him, but wise people are protected by their speech.
- 16:23-24 A wise person’s heart controls his speech, and what he says helps others learn. Pleasant words are like honey from a honeycomb – sweet to the spirit and healthy for the body.
- 18:6-8 By talking, a fool gets into an argument, and his mouth invites a beating. A fool’s mouth is his ruin. His lips are a trap to his soul. The words of a gossip are swallowed greedily, and they go down into a person’s innermost being.
- 18:20-21 A person’s speaking ability provides for his stomach. His talking provides him a living. The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love to talk will have to eat their own words.
3) What do you get from this advice? What seems most important in it to you?
In our times we seem to expect that words are of little import, it’s what we do that matters. There almost seems to be an expectation that people will only speak in their own interest or will lie if need be, so don’t pay attention to words.
4) How does the modern casual attitude towards speech affect our lives?
Jesus spoke a few times about the words we speak.
Read Matthew 5:33-37
5) What is Jesus saying here? Does it apply to our time as well as to his time?
Read Matthew 15:1-20
6) What is Jesus’ point? Why might he be so upset? Did the Pharisees ask a bad question?
The single longest teaching on speaking comes in James. Not surprisingly, given the overlap with proverbs, some consider the book to have the most practical advice in the New Testament on Christian duties. Read chapter 3.
7) What is the advice you find in here about the words we use?
One of the reasons that this chapter of Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus is so interesting is that the author shares rabbinical teaching that comes from the Old Testament scriptures on speech. They’ve thought about exactly how we use speech in sinful ways. It’s like they’re trying to work out this part of Psalm 34:
Ps 34:12-13 Which of you wants a full life? Who would like to live long enough to enjoy good things? Keep your tongue from saying evil things and your lips from speaking deceitful things.• Motzei Shem Ra – to put out a bad name – slander. Miriam and Aaron’s criticism of Moses is seen as this (in Numbers 12). This was Jesus phrase in the Beatitudes.
• Lashon Hara – an evil tongue – telling negative truths. This is seen as violating humility (which Paul recommends in Phillipians 2:3). Warning sign, “he’s great, but…” Illustration: slicing a pillow.
• Avak Lashan Hara – the dust of an evil tongue – non-verbal commentary, or inviting lashan hara by a set up question or invitation. Or sharing something because it shows another in a bad light.
• Halbanat Panim – whitening the face – humiliating another. “The pain of humiliation is more bitter than death.” Especially dangerous when correcting someone.
• Geneivat Da’at – stealing knowledge – to mislead without speaking untruth. To imply something false, often to give a too good impression of yourself or something else. Fake discounts, omitted information, ingenuous offers. Danger sign: someone feels duped.
Speech is a favorite topic of discussion by many wits and wise folk.
• Once a word has been allowed to escape, it cannot be recalled. ~Horace
• “How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is To have a thankless child!” –Shakespeare, King Lear (Lear’s complaining about his daughter.)
• “Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.” – Ben Franklin
• “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” - Abraham Lincoln
• A lie does not consist in the indirect position of words, but in the desire and intention, by false speaking, to deceive and injure your neighbour. - Jonathan Swift
• “It takes your enemy and your friend working together to hurt you to the heart: the one to slander you, and the other to get the news to you.” – Mark Twain
8) Do any of these seem biblical to you, or a good way to put the scriptural advice?
Much of the above is about speech to avoid. What about words we should try to say? David prayed
Psalm 19:14 “May the words from my mouth and the thoughts from my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my defender.”9) What should we be trying to say?