Life Theology

Your Words Have the Power of Life and Death

Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips. (Romans 3:10)

Think about the way you talked today. How did you use your words? Were they used to build up or tear down? To give life or kill?

Paul writes that sinners (namely, everyone) use the tongue to hurt people. The tongue itself is not a moral object. It may be used for truth-speaking, encouraging, and gospel preaching. But it also may be used to deceive, slander, and discourage.  Paul describes people’s lips as having “the venom of asps.”  An asp is a venomous snake that lived in the Nile region during Paul’s day.  In modern day, it is native to southwestern Europe.  In antiquity, when a criminal was not thought to deserve a respectable execution, he would be injected with the asp’s venom, which is particularly potent.

Think about that for a second: our words can be used like snake venom in an execution.

Gossip. Slander. Biting sarcasm. Wrath. Clamor.

Friends. Neighbors. Parents. Siblings. Spouses. Co-workers. Strangers.

Whoever said, “Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me,” obviously never had an interpersonal relationship with anyone.  Words do hurt and, according to Paul, they can kill.  The venom of an asp will eventually kill someone physically and put them out of their misery.  Words, on the other hand, are remembered in the heart and mind, and are carried emotionally and spiritually until death.  Words can kill slowly and softly.  Over and over and over again.

Paul Tripp has said, “You have never spoken a neutral word in your life.”  We must ask ourselves: Do our words bring life or bring death?  Do our words bring the infusion of gospel comfort, peace, encouragement, love, unity, and truth, or do they bring the hellish venom of hurt, discord, discouragement, bitterness, division, and falsehood?


More Thoughts on Loving and Liking

I wanted to clarify a few things from my last post.  Here are four things that I do not mean when I say that loving and liking someone is the same thing:

  • I don’t mean that you have to be buddy-buddy with every person.  There is a way to be gentle, respectful, kind, truthful, and interested in their well-being without being a “friend.”
  • I don’t mean that you have to be “nice” at the expense of truth.  For more on this, read this post.
  • I don’t mean that you have to agree with — or even be tolerant of — every opinion out there.
  • I don’t mean that you have eliminate emotions and never get frustrated, angry, sad, etc.

As Christians, we are called to genuinely love every person since they are made in God’s image.  Romans 12:9, 10 says, “Let love be genuine…Outdo one another in showing honor.”  If you do not genuinely like someone, I’m willing to bet you won’t try very hard to love them, and you won’t go out of your way to show them honor.  Paul commands us in Galatians 6:10 to do good to everyone.  Doing good comes from a heart-level desire for the benefit of another’s well-being.  If you do not like someone, you will not be concerned for their well-being.

By God’s grace, let us pursue the great exhortation of Paul to the young Timothy: “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Tim. 1:5).


Powlison on Marital Intimacy

CCEF has provided video interviews with biblical counselor David Powlison on questions about marital intimacy:


Pitfalls in Communication: Improper Channels

Part 4 of a 6 part series. View series intro and index.

At large, we tend to be very passive, non-confrontational, and people-pleasing communicators. Even the most aggressive among us, deep down, want to be loved and so we tend to shy away when problems come up. This disposition causes us to use bad channels of communication. Every day, each hour, we have choices to make about which channel to communicate through and the hardest choices happen when conflict rears its ugly head.

I think it’s funny that now that everyone has a cell phone, we actually call someone to discuss a problem and we hope to get the voicemail. When someone answers, we say, “Oh! I didn’t expect to get you. I was just getting ready to leave a voicemail.”  There are times when two people experience conflict and both go to extreme measures to avoid the other person, whether at home, work, or even out in public.

The bottom line is this: we choose a particular channel of communication based on what makes us comfortable or uncomfortable. Talking face-to-face with your boss about a problem is uncomfortable, so you write a note or send an email. Calling an offended friend is hard, so you send a pithy text message to try and smooth things over.  Looking your hurt spouse in the eyes is tortuous, so you avoid her altogether.

I’ve learned what channels to use the hard way. I’ve had more than my share of email conflicts, and I’ve avoided people and had huge consequences.  With all this in mind, here are some general guidelines for determining proper channels of communication:

  • Face-to-face should always be the desired channel of communication. If that is unavailable, then try a phone conversation. If you can’t call them, then send an email. Finally, if email is not possible, then get ready for thunder thumbs and send a text message.
  • Never communicate anything negative in a written channel.  Negative communication in an email or text can be deadly to any relationship. We know these are never good mediums because you cannot hear tone, inflection, or see the face and eyes of the other person.  However, negative communication doesn’t need to be offensive communication if delivered with kindness, gentleness, and loving truth while seeing and hearing the other person.  If you cannot get a hold of them, then send a message letting them know you’d like to meet in person.
  • Therefore, email should only be used for positive or neutral communication. This also applies for memos in an organizational context.
  • When having a face-to-face conversation, remember that people communicate differently. Some people speak faster than they think, while others need some time to internally process. Communicate how you communicate, but be gracious in allowing the other person to communicate how they communicate. If there is an abundance of grace and understanding from both people, conflict will not arise out of conflict.
  • Thanks to my fiancée, whom I’ve learned this from: in a written correspondence, if you have to write “I’m just kidding” or “That was a joke,” then you probably shouldn’t have written it.

Communication and Sovereignty

When our words flow out of a heart that seeks control, it simply points to a deeper truth that we do not rest in the sovereignty of God.  Instead of seeking control, we need to let God be God.  In Paul Tripp’s book, War of Words, he provides seven questions for us to think about when we consider our communication struggles.

  • How does your communication reveal a frustration with people and circumstances?
  • In what ways is your communication an attempt to take control?
  • How do you typically respond when your plans are thwarted?
  • How do you respond when God sends suffering or disappointment your way?
  • Do you encourage those around you to rest in God’s sovereign care?  Do you point to evidences of his loving hand?  How?
  • Do you seek to speak in a way that encourages the work God is doing in others?
  • Do your words reveal that you are resting in God’s control or wrestling with it?