The Christian faith has always put tremendous importance on words. Words can build up; they can tear down. They can spread wisdom and encouragement; they can encourage ignorance and despair. Jesus Christ himself is described as “the Word of Life.” And the words that come out of our mouths can reflect the state of our hearts… for good or ill.
In the passage below, we get a picture of what shoud—and shouldn’t—be heard from followers of Christ.
… warn [your brothers and sisters] in the sight of God not to engage in battles over words that aren’t helpful and only destroy those who hear them. Make an effort to present yourself to God as a tried-and-true worker, who doesn’t need to be ashamed but is one who interprets the message of truth correctly. Avoid their godless discussions, because they will lead many people into ungodly behavior, and their ideas will spread like an infection. This includes Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have deviated from the truth by claiming that the resurrection has already happened. This has undermined some people’s faith.
God’s solid foundation is still standing with this sign: The Lord knows the people who belong to him, and Everyone who confesses the Lord’s name must avoid wickedness. In a mansion, there aren’t just gold and silver bowls but also some bowls that are made of wood and clay. Some are meant for special uses, some for garbage. So if anyone washes filth off themselves, they will be set apart as a “special bowl.” They will be useful to the owner of the mansion for every sort of good work.
Run away from adolescent cravings. Instead, pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace together with those who confess the Lord with a clean heart. Avoid foolish and thoughtless discussions, since you know that they produce conflicts. God’s slave shouldn’t be argumentative but should be kind toward all people, able to teach, patient, and should correct opponents with gentleness. Perhaps God will change their mind and give them a knowledge of the truth. They may come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap that holds them captive to do his will. — 2 Timothy 2 (CEB)
Questions to Consider
- What do you think these “battles over words that aren’t helpful” were? Have you witnessed, or participated in, such battles? How do you view the experience in retrospect?
- Why do you think false teaching (such as that of Hymenaeus and Philetus mentioned above) is such a persistent danger in the church, if we have the Bible as a final authority?
- How do “godless” and “thoughtless discussions” take root in a Bible-believing community? Does this passage provide us with a way of distinguishing useful from useless talk?
- If somebody were to listen in on your interactions with family and friends during a typical day, would they describe your speech as kind, patient, and gentle?