“I hate you.” Just like that, I said it. My mother quickly and firmly addressed it. I can’t think of another time after that that I told my sister I hated her. I was a little kid, but I have a faint recollection of my nasty performance.
I cannot recount the number of insensitive, angry, spiteful, disgruntled, bitter, malicious, vile, vulgar, profane, blasphemous, deceitful, false, and hurtful words that I have said in my lifetime. I’m an excitable, extroverted, and expressive person, and controlling my mouth is difficult for me. Perhaps you’re extroverted too and feel my pain. However, even introverts have used words wickedly but likely not in the same volume.
Jesus once said, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak” (Mt. 12:36). Maybe we should say less or at least be slower in saying what we think we should say. They say, “Look before you leap.” That’s good advice. We should also think before we speak.
Within its gratitude section, the Heidelberg Catechism helpfully explains what the 10 Commandments mean. All 10 Commandments connect in some way to our words, but here are a few connections. In reference to the third commandment, Heidelberg 99 advocates praising God “in all our words.” In reference to the sixth commandment, Heidelberg 105 says we are “not to dishonor, hate, injure, or kill [our] neighbor by . . . words.” Heidelberg 109 explains that in the seventh commandment God “forbids all unchaste . . . words.” The ninth commandment explicitly addresses words, and Heidelberg 112 explains it to mean that we “must not give false testimony against anyone . . . not gossip or slander, nor condemn or join in condemning anyone rashly and unheard . . . avoid all lying and deceit . . . [and] speak and confess [the truth] honestly.” We struggle with these things. Our loving heavenly Father has yet to complete His work of sanctification in us. But as He sanctifies our hearts, He is also lovingly sanctifying our mouths.
Here are seven points from the Proverbs to encourage you to ask the Lord for His grace and Spirit to help you speak good words, but also thank the Lord that He is actively giving you the help you need to speak life.
- Restraining yourself shows wisdom. Proverbs 10:19 says, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” Not saying it, even if you really want to say it, show God’s wisdom at work in you. Show restraint in order to love God and your neighbor.
- Your words can either kill or heal. Imagine someone thrusting a sword into your chest and piercing your heart. That’s a gruesome image. Proverbs 12:18 says, “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Wouldn’t you rather soothe someone’s heart with your words than stab and wound it?
- Being slow to speak gives you further hope in the righteousness of Christ. There is very little hope for a person who speaks recklessly. Proverbs 29:20 says, “Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” I think this is why James said, “let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20). Being slow to speak doesn’t mean we don’t speak; it means we calculate before we speak. Proverbs 15:28 adds, “The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.”
- When you lie to and flatter others you are hating them. Think of a venomous snake striking its prey. That’s you when you lie and flatter! Proverbs 26:28 says, “A lying tongue hates its victims, and a flattering mouth works ruin.” Your honesty is a gift of love.
- When you lie to others you are pursuing your own misery. Proverbs 17:20 says, “A man of crooked heart does not discover good, and one with a dishonest tongue falls into calamity.” Imagine what an honest tongue does.
- Gentle and good words give life. Don’t you love fruit trees? They give us beautiful and delectable gifts. Proverbs 15:4, “A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.” With the Spirit’s help, we don’t need to break the spirits of others; we can speak life. Matthew Henry once commented, “He that knows how to discourse will make the place he lives in a paradise.” 
- God hates liars, so be sure you’re an honest person. You might not like the way I put that, but consider Proverbs 6:16-19. It explains things that the Lord hates, things that are an abomination to Him, and one of them is “a false witness who breathes out lies.” God doesn’t simply hate the lies but also the false witness who tells them. Thank the Lord that He has not left us in our sin, but by His grace and Spirit, He is making us honest men and women! Proverbs 24:26 says, “Whoever gives an honest answer kisses the lips.” I don’t want to kiss everyone on the lips, but I love kissing my wife on the lips, and telling the truth is kind of like that. It’s good, it’s loving, it displays affection for the other person.
Our comfort is that God has granted us His Holy Spirit so that we are heartily ready and willing from now on to use our words to serve and love God and others. We are not without help. If we confess the sins of our mouth, God is faithful and just to forgive us and to sanctify our hearts and mouths. Let us trust the Lord to produce good things in our hearts which will inevitably overflow from our mouths.
 Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 987.