12 Types of Speech the Bible Warns Us About

I have been preaching through the book of James at my church this semester, and it’s hard not to notice that James warns us again and again to be careful with our words. His first warning is in 1:26, where he says that if we can’t gain control of our tongues, then our religious practices are “worthless.” Then, in chapter 3, he compares the tongue to a raging fire that can burn up your entire life with a flame that comes from the very pit of hell! That’s some strong language. But James isn’t alone in his concern about the damage we can cause with our words.

Throughout the Scripture, God issues us constant warnings about the way we speak. That’s partly because our words reflect our hearts. Jesus said that “the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man…out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders” (Matthew 15:18-19). Our words also affect other people, either bringing encouragement and healing or causing destruction and pain.

More than that, we have to be careful about our words because there are so many different ways that our speech can go wrong! Below are 12 different categories of sinful speech that the Bible warns us about. I have included one or two Scripture passages with each category, but that’s by no means comprehensive.

Read them carefully and consider: Do any of these describe the way you use your words on a regular basis?

1. Angry words

A fool’s anger is known at once, But a prudent man conceals dishonor. (Proverbs 12:16)

This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. (James 1:19–20)

2. Lies

You destroy those who speak falsehood; The Lord abhors the man of bloodshed and deceit. (Psalm 5:6)

Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. (Ephesians 4:25)

3. Cutting Sarcasm

Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows and death, So is the man who deceives his neighbor, And says, “Was I not joking?” (Proverbs 26:18–19)

4. Gossip

The one who goes about gossiping reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with someone who is always opening his mouth. (Proverbs 20:19)

The one who conceals hatred utters lies, and the one who spreads slander is certainly a fool. (Proverbs 10:18)

5. Flattery

The one who reproves another will in the end find more favor than the one who flatters with the tongue. (Proverbs 28:23)

For we never appeared with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is our witness. (1 Thessalonians 2:5)

6. Bragging

The Lord says, “Wise people should not boast that they are wise. Powerful people should not boast that they are powerful. Rich people should not boast that they are rich. (Jeremiah 9:23)

But the one who boasts must boast in the Lord. (2 Corinthians 10:17)

But as it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. (James 4:16)

7. Perverted and vulgar speech

Neither should there be vulgar speech, foolish talk, or coarse jesting—all of which are out of character—but rather thanksgiving. (Ephesians 5:4)

You must let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but only what is beneficial for the building up of the one in need, that it may give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29)

8. Profanity/Using God’s name in vain

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold guiltless anyone who takes his name in vain. (Exodus 20:7)

9. Speaking without thinking

Do you see someone who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him. (Proverbs 29:20)

This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. (James 1:19–20)

10. Complaining

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God without blemish though you live in a crooked and perverse society, in which you shine as lights in the world. (Philippians 2:14–15)

Show hospitality to one another without complaining. (1 Peter 4:9)

11. Arguing

But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, quarrels, and fights about the law, because they are useless and empty. Reject a divisive person after one or two warnings. (Titus 3:9–10)

It is an honor for a person to cease from strife, but every fool quarrels. (Proverbs 20:3)

12. Talking too much

When words abound, transgression is inevitable, but the one who restrains his words is wise. (Proverbs 10:19)

There you go! These 12 are not the only types of speech that the Bible warns us about, but they are among the most frequently mentioned. As you read them, would you say that your speech consistently reflects the character of God? Most of us would have to acknowledge that the answer is, “No.” Let’s pray that God will transform our hearts, and give us the strength to bridle our tongues in order to honor Him with what we say.

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