Jesus said, “I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken” (Matthew 12:36). When I hear someone telling a dirty joke, I always remember what the apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. …Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving (Ephesians 4:29; 5:4). David said, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).

The Bible has a lot to say about the careless use of words. Most people think that curse words are the worst words we speak—and they are evil, but I think that the words that are the worst in God’s eyes are the words we use to belittle, put down, denigrate, lie about, and hurt other people. Solomon wrote, “Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few” (Ecclesiastes 5:2). Sometimes I wonder if we even realize what we’re saying! It’s easy, in a moment of heated emotions, or exchange of words, to say things that we soon regret. I don’t think that any of us are guiltless in this area of our lives. The long-term damage of the words we speak can be devastating for many years into the future.

The Bible tells us that the tongue is wicked, deceitful, perverse, filthy, corrupt, flattering, slanderous, gossiping, blasphemous, foolish, boasting, complaining, cursing, contentious, sensual, and vile. Someone has said that it’s good thing that God put our tongue behind a cage of teeth, and walled in by the mouth, or it would be more destructive than it is.

The tongue is you in a unique way. It’s a tattletale that tells on the heart and discloses the real person. Not only that, but the misuse of the tongue is perhaps the easiest way to sin. There are some sins that an individual may not be able to commit simply because he or she does not have the opportunity. But there are no limits to what we can say, no built-in restraints or boundaries. The apostle James wrote, “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless” (James 1:26).

Trying to hurt someone with your words can be dangerous. “He who conceals his hatred has lying lips, and whoever spreads slander is a fool” (Proverbs 10:18). Do you ever wonder what happened to the liars that caused Daniel to be thrown into the lions’ den? “At the king’s command, the men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. And before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones” (Daniel 6:24). Those false accusers who slandered Daniel’s name suffered the consequences of their words.

“When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise” (Proverbs 10:19). I’m sure we have all tried to talk ourselves out of some situation that we have gotten ourselves into, only to find out that our many words only worsened our problems. There’s the old saying, “It is better to keep your mouth shut and let everyone think you are a fool, than to speak up and remove all doubt.” “He who has a deceitful heart finds no good, and he who has a perverse tongue falls into evil” (Proverbs 17:20).

“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18). Reckless words can  be a real problem for people. Reckless words can be extremely hurtful when spoken to our children or spouses. More than one marriage has been devastated because a husband or wife used words in a reckless manner. Fathers and mothers are prone to speak before they have listened to what their children have to say. The Bible tells us, “He who answers before listening—that is his folly and his shame” (Proverbs 18:13).

Employee and employer relationships can go down the drain when someone doesn’t think before they speak. The saying, “Don’t talk so fast you say things you haven’t even thought of yet” is something we should all remember before we speak. “He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin” (Proverbs 13:3). Hasty words have cost business men and women their reputation, their job, a contract, their friends, and millions upon millions of dollars. Do you see a man who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Proverbs 29:20).

I have heard people say, “Well, everyone is entitled to their own opinions.” And that’s true, but here’s what the Bible says about those who don’t want to listen to good advice and are always wanting to express their own opinion. “A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions” (Proverbs 18:2). “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool,but whoever walks wisely will be delivered” (Proverbs 28:26). When God calls someone a fool, then maybe that someone should consider changing their ways.

“A fool’s lips bring him strife, and his mouth invites a beating. A fool’s mouth is his undoing, and his lips are a snare to his Soul” (Proverbs 18:6-7). These two verses should remind us of the many times that our mouth has overloaded our ability. Words like, “Sure, it’s hot, but I know that I can get off the ground with a full hopper!” “I know the visibility isn’t very good, but I can get to the field!” The words we speak can make us look wise, or they can make us look like a fool! The words we use are a choice we make every day of our life!