Biblical Principles for Godly Verbal Communication

Note from Randy Alcorn: Years ago I put together a number of Scriptures on the power of our words. Their cumulative weight is stunning. I encourage you to read them and meditate on them, and examine your heart and habits.

The Power of My Words

For Bad:

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. But no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison (James 3:6, 8).

With his mouth the godless man destroys his neighbor (Proverbs 11:9).

The words of a gossip are like choice morsels, they go down to a man's inmost parts (Proverbs 18:8).

For Good:

A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver (Proverbs 25:11).

Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones (Proverbs 16:24).

An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up (Proverbs 12:25).

The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, but the heart of the wicked is of little value. The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of judgment (Proverbs 10: 20, 21).

For Good or Evil:

Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing (Proverbs 12:18).

The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit (Proverbs 15:4).


The tongue has the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21).

Listen before You Speak 

Listen to the Counsel of Others:

He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise (Proverbs 15:31).

He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding (Proverbs 15:32).

Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise (Proverbs 19:20).

Stop listening to instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge (Proverbs 19:27).

Pay attention and listen to the sayings of the wise; apply your heart to what I teach, for it is pleasing when you keep them in your heart and have all of them ready on your lips (Proverbs 22:17, 18).

Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is a wise man's rebuke to a listening ear (Proverbs 25:12).

For waging war you need guidance, and for victory many advisers (Proverbs 24:6).

A wise son heeds his father's instruction, but a mocker does not listen to rebuke (Proverbs 13:1).

Wise men store up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool invites ruin (Proverbs 10:14).

Listen before You Respond:

He who answers before listening-that is his folly and his shame (Proverbs 18:13).

Do you see a man who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for him (Proverbs 29:20).

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry (James 1:19).

Don't Talk Too Much

When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise (Proverbs 10:19).

A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered (Proverbs 17:27).

A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions (Proverbs 18:2).

Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue (Proverbs 17:28).

A man of understanding holds his tongue (Proverbs 11:12).

Weigh Your Words: Think before You Speak

The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil (Proverbs 15:28).

Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing (Proverbs 12:18).

He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin (Proverbs 13:3).

He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity (Proverbs 21:23).

If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless (James 1:26).

Make Your Words Timely and Appropriate

A man finds joy in giving an apt reply—and how good is a timely word! (Proverbs 15:23)

A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver (Proverbs 25:11).

It is to a man's honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel (Proverbs 20:3).

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger (Proverbs 15:1).

Don't Take Too Seriously the Harsh Words of Others 

Do not pay attention to every word people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you—for you know in your heart that many times you yourself have cursed others (Ecclesiastes 7:21, 22).

Speak the Truth

Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies (Psalm 34:13).

A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who pours out lies will not go free (Proverbs 19:5, 9).
The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful (Proverbs 12:22).

Say What People Need to Hear, Not Just What They Want 

Kings take pleasure in honest lips; they value a man who speaks the truth (Proverbs 16:13).

Whoever flatters his neighbor is spreading a net for his feet (Proverbs 29:5).

He who rebukes a man will in the end gain more favor than he who has a flattering tongue (Proverbs 28:23).

Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses (Proverbs 27:5, 6).

A truthful witness saves lives, but a false witness is deceitful (Proverbs 14:25).

Speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ (Ephesians 4:15-16).

Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult; whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse. Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you (Proverbs 9:7, 8).

Use Words That Edify

The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit (Proverbs 15:4).

Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones (Proverbs 16:24).

An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up (Proverbs 12:25).

Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification (Romans 14:19).

For even if I boast somewhat freely about the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than pulling you down (2 Corinthians 10:8).

We have been speaking in the sight of God as those in Christ; and everything we do, dear friends, is for your strengthening (2 Corinthians 12:19).

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you (Ephesians 4:29-32).

The Source of My Words

For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34).

But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man "unclean" (Matthew 15:18).

The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart (Luke 6:45).

The Problem: What Is the Heart of Man Like? 

Every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood (Genesis 8:21).

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)

The Solution: A Heart Transplant

Create in me a new heart, O God (Psalm 51:10).

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone. I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws (Ezekiel 36:26, 27).

The Surgical Tool: God's Word

For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Hebrews 4:12, 13).

Once the heart is changed, the words will change:

A wise man's heart guides his mouth (Proverbs 16:23).

Remember We Must Account to God for Our Words

But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken (Matthew 12:36).

So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore, let us stop passing judgment on one another (Romans 14:12).

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad (2 Corinthians 5:10).

Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries