By Women, For Women

“A Word Fitly Spoken”

By Lydia Casey

The Bible is full of entreaties regarding the use of the tongue. The book of Proverbs alone is riddled with verses encouraging the reader to be cautious in his or her speech—for example, not to lie, slander, gossip, brag, or say perverse or hypocritical things.

While my thoughts here are intended for fellow Christians who are women, the problem of misusing the tongue is certainly not unique to the female gender. In fact, many well-known examples in the Bible of sins of the tongue are furnished by men, such as Abraham with the half-truth about Sarah, his wife (“She is my sister,” Gen. 20:2). Jacob callously deceived his aged father (Gen. 27:19), and Peter denied knowing his Lord (Mark 14:66-72). These are but a few examples of many featuring both men and women who fell into the trap of speaking when and what they shouldn’t have.

Our lives are quite different today from those of the characters of the Bible, and our challenges and dilemmas are less dramatic. We are blessed to be living in the United States during an era in which conflicts are not usually life-threatening. However, the temptation to misuse our mouths is still present, and, like some who went before us and are mentioned in the pages of the Scriptures, we fail to overcome that temptation time and again.

It seems ironic in light of the evil that is in the world, but much of the ongoing battle that a sincere Christian wages is fought internally, against himself or herself, in defeating the “evil thoughts of the heart” (Gen. 6:5). How can we hope to help ourselves in the battle against our own mouths? How can we beat down the “forest fire” that can be started by that little piece of kindling, the tongue (James 3:5)?

An obvious but sometimes overlooked means of avoiding saying something wrong is to stop and think before we speak. James tells us to “be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (1:19). Before we blurt out the latest news about someone, give an opinion about something, or just vent about what’s bothering us, we might benefit by asking ourselves some questions. Is this a productive thing that I’m about to say? Is it going to help the situation, or will it make it worse?

Even if my comments are crying out to be made and I might have every right to be angry, I must consider the well-being of everyone concerned, especially if those involved are other Christians (Gal. 6:10; Rom. 12:18-19). Good timing is important—for example, it’s best not to question someone about a rumor in the middle of a crowd of women at a luncheon, as once happened to me. Ambushing a sister in Christ verbally or otherwise embarrassing her is not in keeping with passages like Romans 12:10, which exhorts us to be “kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love.”

Another question we might ask ourselves before speaking is whether or not what we want to say is absolutely true. Even if a statement is true, it can still be gossip, and we surely want to stay away from committing that sin. Is the moment of questionable pleasure in sharing a piece of gossip worth the price I would pay for all eternity (Matt. 12:36-37)?

Even if we don’t go through the whole process of thinking through these types of questions before going ahead with something we wanted to say, maybe the fact that we just stopped to ask ourselves those questions will buy us some time. Maybe we just need a few minutes sometimes to allow that heated moment to pass, to let tempers cool, to let the topic of conversation be changed, and to be distracted from a difficult subject. This practice of stopping to think before we speak can buy us some valuable time during which we can extinguish that little fire that’s starting to burn within and realize that we don’t need to say anything, after all.

However, when we do blunder and say something we shouldn’t have, is the best tactic to follow the maxim, “Least said, soonest mended”? Perhaps not. If I have created a wrong impression in someone’s mind or been guilty of slander or idle gossip, is it necessary for me to go to the one(s) who heard me and set the record straight? Considering the wealth of passages in the Bible dealing with the subject of honesty (e.g., Pro. 6:16-17; Col. 3:9), I believe the sincere Christian’s answer to that question is “yes.” I’ve got to swallow a humility pill, apologize, and clear things up. The woman who does this consistently can be an example to those around her and set the proper spiritual tone for the behavior of all the women within a group. We need to be ready and willing to say those underused words, “I made a mistake; I’m sorry.”

Just imagine what it would be like if the women of an entire congregation were careful in how they spoke to each other, and, if by chance a problem developed, it was cleared up immediately, with humble and loving attitudes displayed by all. This is the atmosphere Christ envisioned for his disciples (John 13:34-35). In Proverbs 31, we are given the great example of the worthy woman, who “opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness” (v. 26).

When I was in college, I was working in the cafeteria alongside another young woman, who overheard me tell several people a bit of news about some mutual friends. After listening to me spread the news two or three times, my cafeteria coworker quietly took that opportunity to caution me about gossiping, telling me that gossip takes many forms. She chose her words carefully and spoke in a soft and gentle voice. Her comments have stuck with me for many years now. I am more careful of my speech today because this godly woman took a moment to correct me. She knew that “a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver” (Pro. 25:11).

What a beautiful, shining picture it is, when we women in the church speak to each other truthfully, kindly, and—when necessary—contritely. Tragically, what terrible damage we cause when we do not.

Lydia [Humphries] Casey is a homemaker with three small daughters. Her husband, Evan, preaches for the Crestwood church of Christ in Crestwood, Kentucky. Before her marriage she worked in radio broadcasting and teaching, both in the US and abroad. She graduated from Western Kentucky University with a B.A. in English and Allied Language Arts. She was Evan’s “help meet” in Hungary for two years (1999-2001) while he was preaching and teaching the gospel there. Their residence was in Budapest. You can communicate with her at

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