Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.
1 Timothy 4:12
In this verse to Paul’s young disciple Timothy, he mentions five main things: speech, life, love, faith and purity. He admonishes Timothy to not allow anyone to look down on him because he is younger than most disciples, but to instead set an example to others in Christian characteristics.
This is a great verse for teens because we are young, but that doesn’t mean we can’t also show godly characteristics in how we live our lives. Being a teenager is no excuse for “slacking” in the Christian faith.
The first of the five characteristics Paul speaks to Timothy about is speech.
How can we be examples to other believers through our speech?
First of all, what does “speech” include? It includes how we speak to others and how we speak about others.
There are many verses in the Bible which tell us how to speak as Christians. One of the main passages which has speech as its theme is James 3:3 – 12:
When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
As part of the body of Christ, we are called to be encouraging to others, not harsh or mean. God wants us to constantly be building each other up in love. Our words have the power to be Christ to the hurting and lost or to turn away others.
A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.
An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.
As the passage in James says, the tongue is powerful and naturally unruly. It takes a lot of work to “tame the tongue.” I’ve narrowed problems with speech down to five main things:
- angry words (that we later regret)
- unkind words
- swearing (this is an obvious one)
Obviously swearing (taking the Lord’s name in vain and/or cuss words) is a problem with speech. Simply, don’t do it!
There are other problems too, though. A Christian shouldn’t swear, but there are so many other things that get overlooked when it comes to a Christian’s speech.
A lying tongue hates those it hurts, and a flattering mouth works ruin.
The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful.
A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.
A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends.
The way we speak tells everyone around us who we are and it can bring others to Christ or push them away. I challenge you to be aware of the way you speak to everyone. Is it kind or unkind? Will it build up or tear down? Would I want God to hear it?