Key Scriptures: Proverbs (various), Ephesians 4:29 Colossians 4:6, Matthew 15:11, Ephesians 5:4, Matthew 12:36-37, James 1:26, James 1:19, Colossians 3:8, Philippians 2:14, Titus 3:1-2, James 5:12
Guiding Question: What are God’s commands and principles for the things we say?
Optional Introductory Activity: Start class by asking students to share the nicest thing anyone has ever said to them and the most hurtful thing anyone has said to them. Depending upon the personalities of your students, you may have to share your answers first. As hard as it may be, try not to over react to what students share. (Note: If something shared worries you, have a private conversation with that student after class.) Ask students how those things people said to them made them feel? Have them share their opinions as to why those particular sentences created such strong emotions and were so memorable to them.
Lesson: (Questions to students are in bold italics.) Words have power. You have probably heard about physical abuse of a spouse or child. What you may not know is that verbal abuse can also cause serious harm to others. Children who are verbally abused are more likely to become involved in substance abuse, delinquency and have problems with aggression and social interactions. They often develop extremely low self esteem and believe they are unloveable.
Even verbal abuse from people unrelated to us can cause increased fear and stress and even lead to physical ailments from the stress the verbal exchanges create. In severe cases, victims can become depressed and/or experience difficulties in sleeping or eating normally.
King Solomon learned how words can impact lives early in his reign. Read 1 Kings 3:1-15. What did God ask Solomon? What was Solomon’s response to God? How did God react to Solomon’s answer? Thankfully, Solomon’s words were pleasing God. Solomon showed wisdom in the words he chose to use to answer God. The Bible doesn’t tell us what Solomon was thinking or how long it took him to give God an answer. What we do know is that Solomon’s request for wisdom was pleasing to God. God even gave him the other blessings the average king would have requested instead of wisdom.
Perhaps it’s not surprising that Solomon, considered to be the primary writer of Proverbs, wrote many of his proverbs about speech. In fact, there are about a hundred proverbs about speech in the book of Proverbs.
We don’t have time to look at all of the Proverbs about speech today, but looking at a large sample of them will give us an idea about the types of speech God does and does not want His people to use.
Note: As students read these passages, record the gist of the proverb on a surface all students can see. To make it easier to understand, divide it in half. One half should be labeled acceptable speech and the other unacceptable speech. Have students decide in which column the advice from the proverb should be placed. It’s important to note that some proverbs will generate at least one item in each column.
- Proverbs 15:1-2. Soft answer turns away wrath, harsh word stirs up anger, tongue of wise commends knowledge, mouths of fools pour out folly
- Proverbs 15:4. Gentle tongue is tree of life, perverseness breaks the spirit
- Proverbs 21:23. He who keeps his mouth and tongue, keeps himself out of trouble
- Proverbs 16:24. Gracious words are like honeycomb
- Proverbs 17:28. Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise
- Proverbs 18:20-21. Death and life are in the power of the tongue and those who love it will eat its fruits
- Proverbs 17:27. Whoever restrains his words has knowledge
- Proverbs 13:3. Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life
- Proverbs 12:25. A good word makes him glad
- Proverbs 10:19. When words are many transgression is not lacking
- Proverbs 10:31-32. Mouth of righteous leads to wisdom
- Proverbs 12:18. Rash words are like sword thrusts, tongue of wise brings healing
- Proverbs 15:28. Heart of righteous ponders how to answer, mouth of wicked pours out evil things
- Proverbs 31:26. Opens her mouth with wisdom, teaching of kindness is on her tongue
- Proverbs 25:11-12. Word filthy spoken is like apples of gold in a silver setting
- Proverbs 18:13. If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame
- Proverbs 25:19. with patience a ruler may be persuaded, a soft tongue will break a bone
- Proverbs 11:9. With his mouth the godless man would destroy his neighbor
- Proverbs 8:13. Pride and arrogance and the way of the evil and perverted speech I hate
- Proverbs 15:23. To make an apt answer is a joy to man
- Proverbs 16:23. Heart of wise makes his speech judicious and adds persuasiveness to his lips
- Proverbs 16:13. Righteous lips are delight of the king and he loves him who speaks what is right
- Proverbs 6:16-19. God hates a lying tongue, false witness and one who sows discord
- Proverbs 20:19. Whoever slanders reveals secrets, don’t associate with a babbler
- Proverbs 4:24. Put away crooked speech and put devious talk far from you
- Proverbs 26:20. Where there is no whisperer quarreling ceases
- Proverbs 20:15. Lips of knowledge are a precious jewel
Skills Activity: Review basic principles from lesson. Explain to students that even though there are about a hundred Proverbs about our speech, God thought it was important that we also get advice about our speech in the New Testament. Read the following scriptures and add them to the chart you started in the lesson.
- Ephesians 4:29. speech that builds others up
- Colossians 4:6. gracious speech
- Matthew 15:11. what comes out of the mouth can defile a person
- Ephesians 5:4. no filthiness, foolish talk, nor crude joking, but thanksgiving
- Matthew 12:36-37. judgment day people will give an account for every careless word they speak
- James 1:26. think you are religious but don’t bridle tongue…religion is worthless
- James 1:19. quick to hear, slow to speak
- Colossians 3:8. no slander or obscene talk
- Philippians 2:14. without grumbling or questioning
- Titus 3:1-2. speak evil of no one, avoid quarreling, show perfect curtesy toward all people
- James 5:12. let your yes be yes and your no be no
Have students throw out topics of conversation, words, phrases, slang and other things they use or hear their peers use (you can tell them no curse words). Have them decide which category those things belong in based on the verses you have read. Can students think of anything that they or others say that they can’t decide to which category it would belong? If needed, you can add things you have heard people say. Try to think of examples of things they would probably find acceptable, but really aren’t in light of the verses you have studied. After you have generated a fairly extensive list ask stuents which areas of their speech they need to correct. Encourage them to be more intentional in correcting these aspects of their speech. (It may be helpful to give students copies of the charts you have generated.)
Application Challenge: Review the scriptures covered in the lesson. What things do you do well? With which do you struggle? How can you remember to make your speech more intentional and more godly? Pick one way in which your speech needs to improve and really try to improve that speech habit over the next week.