“Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” Colossians 4:5–6

The speech of a Christian is one of the telltale signs that his heart has been redeemed. Just as the eyes are the window to the health of the body, the tongue is a window to the health of the soul. The first evidence that the soul has been converted is the words that flow from the forgiven sinner. As he grows, his words explain the meaning of his redeemed life’s good works. Along his new life’s path, God has sown wisdom that he might glean as he perseveres in his pilgrimage. Each morsel of wisdom provides more than enough to satisfy his soul and there is provision to share with his fellow travelers. These are the wise words every saint is called to glean and to share.

Proverbs 22:11 gives us this intriguing thought, “He who loves purity of heart and has grace on his lips, the king will be his friend.” Certainly, Solomon was expressing the fact that he treasured counselors who were honest and were true in their words. But on a grander scale it is unavoidable to see that the King of the Heavens treasures these qualities among His saints. No wonder Solomon’s next verse reads, “The eyes of the LORD preserve knowledge, but He overthrows the words of the faithless.”

The problem with words is that even the best of men are men at best, as Spurgeon used to say. We can fail with one ill-timed, easily turned, poorly conceived word. Our Lord warns us in Matthew 12:35ff, “I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” James puts it this way, in 1:26, “If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless.” Words mean things, not just in the dictionary sense, but the eternal sense.

The Lord Jesus Himself lived by these words. 1 Peter 2:22 reveals this about Him, “who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth.” Isaiah had predicted that the Messiah would be characterized by wise words in 53:7. All of our Lord’s words were true to reality and precise, without the slightest exaggeration or understatement. They were dead-on accurate truth. Sometimes the thought creeps in to our consciousness that a speaker is not being completely honest with his recounting of an event. It may be for no other reason than that people are often given to exaggeration and making themselves look good either at the moment of the tale or at the moment of the retelling. Such was never the case of our Lord.

Since believers are in the “business” of being witnesses to the truth found only in Christ, we must be doubly careful that in all our speech we are believably accurate or we belie the impeccable Gospel. The reason for God’s choice of the 144,000 Jewish witnesses in Revelation 14:5 is stated to be “In their mouth was found no deceit…” God prizes witnesses who are faithful in all their words so they may be fitting witnesses of the truth in Christ. The community of the saints in every church is to be an assembly of redeemed hearts and wise speech. Romans 15:6 reads, “That you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Harmony in doctrine leads to harmony in spirit and harmony in speech, and then harmony becomes the testimony of that local church.

Proverbs 10:11 tells us that “the mouth of the righteous is a well of life.” Psalm 37:30f says, “The mouth of the righteous speaks wisdom, and his tongue talks of justice. The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide.” Psalm 145:10f identifies the general gist of believer’s words, “All Your works shall praise You, O LORD, and Your saints shall bless You. They shall speak of the majesty of Your kingship and talk of Your power.” Such topics are the substance of church worship as Ephesians 5:19f says: “Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things…” Similarly, Malachi 3:16f reflects, “Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who meditate on His name. ‘They shall be Mine,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘on the day that I make them My jewels. And I shall spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.’”

Let us study to employ our lives and our words just as our Lord was prophesied to do in Isaiah 50:4: “The Lord God has given Me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary…” because “The words of the wise are like goads, and words of scholars are like well-driven nails, given by one Shepherd” (Ecclesiastes 12:11). Titus 2:7f admonishes, “In all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works, in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you.” Learn to measure your words for the sake of Christ. Trust and obey.