Teenagers have tempers and can say things that they remember and regret years down the road. It goes without saying that many teenagers speak without thinking. Many teenagers are not the wisest in their choice of words.
My mouth got me in much trouble through my child and teenage years, and still does occasionally! Talking back to coaches. Mocking teachers. Making fun of other students. The list goes on and on. Our mouths get us in trouble! Language is a delicate matter. Because our mouths get us into so much trouble, Scripture is sure to speak on this subject. Most may turn to James 3 here, but we will examine a different passage: 2 Timothy 2:15–18.
“Do you best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handing the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some.” 2 Timothy 2:15–18
Rightly Handling THE Word of Truth
What is rightly handling the word of truth? What even is the word of truth? Well, the word of truth is God’s Word, for truth can only come from God, the source of all truth. Rightly handling the word of truth is a proper interpretation. Proper interpretation–being both inductive and Christological–is a focus for another time.
When God’s Word is properly handled, God’s people properly speak. What I mean by this is that when we align ourselves to the Word of God, our language will naturally align to that of God.
This language is a language of love (Ephesians 4:15). It is a language of hope, joy, and redemption. It is a language that builds up rather than tears down (1 Corinthians 8:1). It is a language that does not retaliate.
It is a language reflective of God Himself. When Jesus–hanging on the cross–said “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34), He set the precedent for the Word of truth in that circumstance. As Stephen–the first martyr–was being stoned, he proclaimed, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60). Stephen aligned with Jesus’ words, the words of truth. As Stephen aligned himself to that of God’s Word, his language was reflective of that of our Savior.
Wrongly Handling MY Words
It is interesting that immediately after a command to rightly handle God’s Word, Paul rebukes the reader to avoid irreverent babble. The two are obviously linked. He is making a point that speech is important.
“Irreverent babble”–useless language, disrespectful of God, is what Paul has in mind here. It is irreverent in that it carries no respect for God and it is babble in that there is no meaning or use to this language.
The issue with this babble is what it does to God’s people and even those that are not His, “it will lead people into more and more ungodliness.” Anything that leads people away from God is obviously not of God! Our goal is to lead people TO God, not away from Him.
Our speech can lead people away from God in many scenarios. Whether it be the grandparent screaming uncontrollably at a pee-wee game or sending an inappropriate email/text. The avenues for irreverent babble today are endless. The caution against it cannot be overstated.
It all comes down to this: God’s Word must be the standard by which all other words are measured. The words of God’s people must align with God’s Word. The words God’s church must align with God’s Word. The words of those on the mission field must align with God’s Word. The moment we cease to align with God’s Word, we have become the “irreverent babblers” of whom Paul writes.
Just as a recipe is a delicate matter, getting all of the measurements “just right” and each ingredient in its proper place, our language is a delicate matter. When we misuse our recipe, the outcome is not pretty. Likewise, as we mishandle the Word of God, the outcome of words in our lives is not pretty.
The question is, “Does your language lead people to God or away from God?”