“Become an example to the faithful ones in speaking.”—1 TIM. 4:12.
SONG 90 Encourage One Another
1. Where did our ability to speak come from?
OUR ability to speak is a gift from our loving God. As soon as the first human, Adam, was created, he could use words to communicate with his heavenly Father. He could also expand his vocabulary by coining new words. Adam used that ability to carry out his assignment of naming all the animals. (Gen. 2:19) And how thrilled he must have been when he spoke for the first time to another human—his beautiful wife, Eve!—Gen. 2:22, 23.
2. How has speech been misused in the past and at present?
2 The gift of speech was soon misused. Satan the Devil lied to Eve, and that lie led to human sin and imperfection. (Gen. 3:1-4) Adam misused his tongue when he blamed Eve—and even Jehovah—for his own mistakes. (Gen. 3:12) Cain lied to Jehovah after he killed his brother Abel. (Gen. 4:9) Later, a descendant of Cain named Lamech composed a poem that reflected the violence of the times in which he lived. (Gen. 4:23, 24) What is the situation today? We observe political leaders who freely use profanity in public. And it is difficult to find a motion picture that does not contain some bad language. Students hear profanity at school, and adults are exposed to it in the workplace. Sadly, the use of foul language is only a reflection of the deterioration in moral standards and in speech that we see in the world around us.
3. What danger do we need to be aware of, and what will we consider in this article?
3 If not careful, we might get so used to hearing bad language that we begin to use it ourselves. Of course, as Christians, we want to please Jehovah, and that involves more than avoiding obscene speech. We want to use the remarkable gift of speech in a positive way—to praise our God. In this article, we will consider how we can do so (1) in the ministry, (2) at congregation meetings, and (3) in our daily conversations. But first, let us consider why our speech matters to Jehovah.
OUR SPEECH MATTERS TO JEHOVAH
4. According to Malachi 3:16, why does our speech matter to Jehovah?
4 Read Malachi 3:16. Can you think of a reason why Jehovah would record in his “book of remembrance” the names of those whose speech shows that they fear him and meditate on his name? Our speech reveals what is in our heart. Jesus said: “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matt. 12:34) What we choose to talk about reflects how much we love Jehovah. And Jehovah wants those who love him to enjoy life forever in the new world.
5. (a) How is our worship connected with what we say? (b) As shown in the picture, what must we be aware of regarding our speech?
5 The way we speak can determine whether Jehovah will accept our worship. (Jas. 1:26) Some of those who do not love God speak in an aggressive, harsh, and proud way. (2 Tim. 3:1-5) We certainly do not want to be like them. We are eager to please Jehovah with our speech. But could Jehovah be pleased with us if we used gracious and kind speech at our Christian meetings or in the ministry but spoke in a harsh and unloving way to family members behind closed doors?—1 Pet. 3:7.
6. What good resulted from Kimberly’s fine speech?
6 When we use the gift of speech well, we identify ourselves as worshippers of Jehovah. We help those around us to see clearly the difference “between one serving God and one not serving him.” (Mal. 3:18) Consider how this proved to be true for a sister named Kimberly.b She was assigned to work with a classmate on a high-school project. After working together, the classmate noticed that Kimberly was different from other students. She did not criticize people behind their back, she spoke in a positive way, and she did not use profanity. Kimberly’s classmate was intrigued and eventually agreed to a Bible study. How pleased Jehovah is when we speak in a way that attracts people to the truth!
7. What are you motivated to do with your God-given gift of speech?
7 We all want to speak in a way that brings honor to Jehovah and draws us closer to our brothers. So let us now consider some practical ways in which we can continue to be “an example . . . in speaking.”
BECOME AN EXAMPLE IN THE MINISTRY
8. What example did Jesus set for us in how he used his speech in the ministry?
8 Speak with kindness and respect when provoked. During his ministry, Jesus was falsely accused of being a man who was a drunkard, a glutton, an agent of the Devil, a Sabbath breaker, and even a blasphemer of God. (Matt. 11:19; 26:65; Luke 11:15; John 9:16) Yet, Jesus did not retaliate with angry words. Like Jesus, we should never retaliate even if spoken to harshly. (1 Pet. 2:21-23) Of course, showing such restraint is not easy. (Jas. 3:2) What can help?
9. What can help us control our speech when we are in the preaching work?
9 Try to look beyond the response of a householder who speaks negatively. A brother named Sam says, “I try to focus on the householder’s need to hear the truth and his potential to change.” Sometimes a householder is angry simply because we came at a bad time. When we are confronted by someone who is upset, we can do what a sister named Lucia does. We can say a brief prayer, asking Jehovah to help us remain calm and hold back from saying anything unkind or disrespectful.
10. According to 1 Timothy 4:13, what goal should we have?
10 Become a more effective teacher. Timothy was an experienced Christian minister, but even he needed to continue to make spiritual improvement. (Read 1 Timothy 4:13.) How can we become more effective teachers in the ministry? We must prepare well. Thankfully, we have a variety of tools that can help us become better teachers. You will find it useful to consult the brochure Apply Yourself to Reading and Teaching and the “Apply Yourself to the Field Ministry” section of the Our Christian Life and Ministry—Meeting Workbook. Are you taking advantage of these resources? When we prepare well, we feel less nervous and speak with more confidence.
11. How have some Christians become better teachers?
11 We can also become better teachers by observing others in the congregation and learning from them. Sam, quoted previously, asks himself what it is that makes some Christians good teachers. He studies their methods and then tries to imitate them. A sister named Talia pays close attention to the way experienced speakers develop public talks. By doing so, she has learned how to speak about and reason on subjects that often come up in the ministry.
BECOME AN EXAMPLE AT THE MEETINGS
12. What challenges do some face?
12 We can all contribute to the success of our congregation meetings by raising our voices in song and by giving well-prepared comments. (Ps. 22:22) Some find it a challenge to sing or to give a comment in public. Do you? If so, you will be interested to know what has helped others overcome their fears.
13. What might help you sing wholeheartedly at the meetings?
13 Sing wholeheartedly. When we sing our Kingdom songs, our primary focus should be on our desire to praise Jehovah. A sister named Sara does not consider herself to be a very good singer. Yet, she wants to praise Jehovah in song. To that end, she finds it helpful to prepare for the songs at home, just as she would prepare for other parts on the meeting. She rehearses the songs and tries to identify how the lyrics tie in with the subject being discussed. “This helps me to focus more on the words and less on my singing ability,” she says.
14. If you are timid, what can help you comment at meetings?
14 Comment regularly. Admittedly, this can be a real challenge for some. “I have social anxiety, even though others don’t notice it because my voice is generally calm,” explains Talia, quoted earlier. “So commenting is very difficult for me.” Yet, Talia does not hold back from giving comments. As she prepares for the meeting, she keeps in mind that the first comment on a subject should be a brief and direct answer to the question. She says: “This means that it is OK if my answer is short, simple, and to the point because that is the kind of answer the conductor is looking for anyway.”
15. What should we remember about our comments?
15 Even Christians who are not particularly shy or timid may at times hold back from commenting. Why? A sister named Juliet explains, “Sometimes I hesitate to comment because I fear that my comment is too simple and not good enough.” Remember, though, that Jehovah wants us to give the best comments we can give.c He greatly appreciates our determination to praise him at congregation meetings and not to allow our fears to hold us back.
BECOME AN EXAMPLE IN DAILY CONVERSATIONS
16. What kind of speech must we avoid?
16 Avoid all forms of “abusive speech.” (Eph. 4:31) As mentioned earlier, profanity has no place on a Christian’s lips. But there are subtle forms of abusive speech that we also need to be on guard against. For example, we need to be careful not to make unfavorable comparisons when talking about people of other cultures, tribes, or nationalities. Further, we never want to hurt others with cutting remarks. One brother admits: “At times, I have made cutting, sarcastic remarks that I thought were funny and innocent but in reality were made at the expense of someone’s feelings. Over the years, my wife has helped me immensely by pointing out in private when my speech was tasteless and hurtful to her and others.”
17. In harmony with Ephesians 4:29, how can we build others up?
17 Speak in a way that builds others up. Be quick to commend rather than to criticize or complain. (Read Ephesians 4:29.) The Israelites had much to be thankful for, yet they routinely complained. A complaining spirit can be contagious. You will recall that a negative report from ten spies caused “all the Israelites . . . to murmur against Moses.” (Num. 13:31–14:4) On the other hand, commendation can be a powerful force for good. We can be sure that the commendation Jephthah’s daughter received from her female companions greatly encouraged her to stick to her assignment. (Judg. 11:40) Sara, quoted previously, says, “When we offer commendation, we make others feel that they are loved by Jehovah and that they have a place in his organization.” So look for opportunities to offer sincere commendation.
18. Based on Psalm 15:1, 2, why must we speak truthfully, and what does this include?
18 Speak truthfully. We cannot please Jehovah if we are untruthful. He hates all forms of lying. (Prov. 6:16, 17) Although many people today consider lying to be a normal part of speech, we stick to Jehovah’s view on the matter. (Read Psalm 15:1, 2.) Of course, we avoid telling outright lies, but we also avoid deliberately giving the wrong impression to others.
19. What further caution should we keep in mind?
19 Avoid spreading harmful gossip. (Prov. 25:23; 2 Thess. 3:11) Juliet, quoted above, explains how negative gossip affects her. She says: “Listening to negative gossip is discouraging, and it causes me to lose trust in the person who is gossiping. After all, how do I know that he or she will not gossip about me to someone else?” If you see that a conversation is turning into harmful gossip, steer the discussion toward something positive.—Col. 4:6.
20. What are you determined to do with your speech?
20 Since we live in a world where bad speech is rampant, we must work hard to ensure that our speech pleases Jehovah. Remember, speech is a gift from Jehovah, and he cares how we use it. He will bless our sincere efforts to use our speech in a positive way in the ministry, at the meetings, and in our daily conversations. When the influence of this ungodly system of things finally comes to an end, it will be much easier to honor Jehovah with our speech. (Jude 15) In the meantime, be determined to please Jehovah with “the words of [your] mouth.”—Ps. 19:14.
SONG 121 We Need Self-Control
a Jehovah has given us a wonderful gift—the gift of speech. Sadly, most people do not use this gift as Jehovah intended. What can help us keep our speech clean and upbuilding in a world where standards are deteriorating? How can we please Jehovah with our speech when engaging in the ministry, attending congregation meetings, and sharing in conversation with others? This article will discuss the answers to those questions.
b Some names have been changed.
d PICTURE DESCRIPTION: A brother reacts harshly to an angry householder; a brother holds back from singing in the congregation; and a sister engages in harmful gossip.