James reminds us in chapter 3:1-12 how important our words are. They can bruise or build, wound or bless, discourage or encourage. I’ve listed multiple scriptures below that remind us that what we say matters. And not only what we say, but when, how, and why we say what we say also really matters. As you walk through these scriptures, ask God to help you tame your tongue and season your conversations with compassion and love.

  • WHAT you say matters.
    • Is it true?
      The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful. Proverbs 12:22
    • Is it gracious?
      Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4:6
    • Is it gossip?
      A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret. Proverbs 11:13
    • Is it hurtful?
      Like a madman shooting firebrands or deadly arrows is a man who deceives his neighbor and says, I was only joking! Proverbs 26:18–19
    • Is it helpful?
      An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up. Proverbs 12:25
  • WHEN you speak matters.
    • Is it the right time?
      If a man loudly blesses his neighbor early in the morning, it will be taken as a curse. Proverbs 27:14
    • Can it wait?
      He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity. Proverbs 21:23
    • Is it hasty?
      Do you see a man who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for him. Proverbs 29:20
    • Is it necessary?
      The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil. Proverbs 15:28
    • Is it timely?
      A man finds joy in giving an apt reply—and how good is a timely word! Proverbs 15:23
  • HOW you say what you say matters.
    • Is it harsh?
      A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1
    • Is it deceitful?
      The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit. Proverbs 15:4
    • Is it appropriate?
      A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. Proverbs 25:11
  • WHY you say what you say matters.
    • Is it encouraging?
      Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Proverbs 16:24
    • Is it supportive?
      Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy. Proverbs 31:8–9
    • Is it constructive?
      Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs. Ephesians 4:29

Take a few moments to reflect on the areas of your speech that you need help in the most, and ask God for His help. For some, what you say can be problematic. For others, it may be timing—the when you say what you say. How you speak is a problem for many—harsh, hurtful, demeaning. And the why part of our conversations is a challenging area for others. Remember, your words matter. All of our relationships—marriage, parents and kids, extended family, co-workers, and more—can be either strengthened or weakened by our words. Maybe you need to ask someone for forgiveness for a demeaning or harsh conversation. Maybe you need to forgive someone who hurt you with their words. Certainly, we all need to ask God to help us tame our tongue so that we can bring life and not death to others by the way we speak. God bless you as you grow in Christ-honoring conversation.