Five ways to put God first with our words
When my child is getting teased at school, I want to march right into the office and make sure they put the mean girl in her place. But should I?
Sure, there is a time to show up and defend our kids, but more often than not, it could be a good opportunity to demonstrate praying for our enemies and those who hurt us (Matthew 5:44). Or perhaps, it’s a chance to have a talk about the responses we can use to diffuse ugly words (Proverbs 15:1). And maybe, it’s a time to talk about how hurt people hurt people and what it looks like to extend grace to undeserving bullies — just like the Lord extended grace to us in our undeserving state.
Parenting is so hard. I can take someone being unkind to me, but when my people are involved, the struggle rises in intensity and I have to dig deep to put God first with my words. What we say and how we say it is important. Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.”
In Ecclesiastes 3:7, one of the wisest men of all time, King Solomon, says, “There is a time to be silent and a time to speak.” How then do we practice putting God first with our words?
1. Consider what you’re inputting into your mind.
What comes out when I’m upset at my girls or step on a Lego reflects what is inside of me. I can beat myself up over my words until I feel like a hopeless failure. Or, I can apologize and ask the Lord to help me input better words.
Luke 6:45 says we speak out of the overflow of what is in our hearts. When we filter what goes in and make better choices to get God’s truth in us, it will transform what comes out.
2. Speak Scripture.
Putting God first with our words can simply be using His words most often. Ephesians 6:17 calls the Word of God as a sword in the armor of God to do battle. God’s Words are powerful!
We have more open access to the Bible than any generation who came before us. When I look back on the best advice I’ve been given in the most difficult times of my life, it’s always biblical wisdom in a verse or passage of Scripture that sticks and encourages.
2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness...” It is impossible to improve on Scripture.
3. Listen to the Holy Spirit.
Putting God first with our words is not something we can do without the help of the Holy Spirit. Listening to the Holy Spirit is not about “trying harder” but surrendering more and leaning into His guidance.
When I am letting the Holy Spirit lead a conversation, I listen more to what the person is saying. I wait for the Spirit to show me what to ask or how to respond, rather than formulating a response before the other person finishes speaking.
When we do this right we are talking to people instead of at them. James 1:19 says to be quick to listen and slow to speak. Glorifying God with our words starts with using the right words at the right time.
4. Think before you speak.
If there is a lull in a conversation, I tend to fill it — quickly! I’m not sure why, but quiet space for pondering before responding can feel uncomfortable. Instead of appreciating a person’s wisdom and thinking before responding, I get antsy and often say something foolish.
If we squelch our natural reactions to blurt out empty words, we’re more likely to impart Godly wisdom.
If we squelch our natural reactions to blurt out empty words, we’re more likely to impart Godly wisdom. 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.”
5. Address issues, not people.
Conflict is a part of being human. We are flawed, sinful people living in the midst of other flawed sinful people. Conflict isn’t sinful, but how we respond can be. We should disagree with ideas rather than a person. We can do this by avoiding name-calling or jumping to assumed intentions.
Well-chosen words can bring life and clarity. For instance, I can appreciate the point of view of a friend with different political ideas because I understand our positions are in philosophy and execution of the democratic process rather than ignorance or hatred. This is hard, but when done well, our words can bring life and clarity rather than death and destruction. In doing this, we open a door for ideas and resolve conflict rather than escalating the problem and isolating people.
At the beginning of each day, we can ask the Lord to help us use our words to bring life to others. There are always uplifting or grace-filled words to offer in every interaction. We can follow God’s example as He speaks words of grace and life to us rather than condemnation (John 3:17).