Husbands, Watch Your Words

April 15, 2015

(This is the fourth post in the “How to Grow as a Husband” series. You can click the links to read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.)

In two weeks thousands of people will converge in Louisville, Kentucky for the state’s greatest spectacle, the Kentucky Derby. Millions watch the nation’s most popular horse race as these beautiful and powerful animals glide across the mile and a quarter track. Commanding the horses are rather small men who communicate with the horses through reigns and a bit in the horse’s mouth. When you think about the size, speed, and power of these animals, one finds it amazing that they can be commanded through such a small apparatus.

In the same way that jockeys command large horses using a small bit, the Bible says our tongues are a small part of our body, but control the course of our lives. In fact, much of who we are can be defined by the words we say to people and the way we say them. In few areas of life are words more important than they are in our marriages. There are three things about the words we use that husbands must keep in mind as we interact with our wives.

Your Words Are Powerful

“Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.” Proverbs 17:27
“A fool’s lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating. A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul.” Proverbs 18:6-7
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” Proverbs 18:21
“Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.” Proverbs  21:23

These four verses from Proverbs remind us about the power of the tongue. The mouth of a fool is his ruin, but the one who keeps his mouth and tongue keep himself out of trouble. Death and life are in the power of the tongue. Words like these remind us of the power of our words. The words we say can tear another person to pieces or they can build another person up. Our words possess the capacity to corrode another person’s soul or to give them life and joy.

The power of our words remind us that we can do nothing more foolish than speak without thinking. How often do we say something cruel, biting, or sarcastic and excuse it with, “sorry, I really didn’t mean that and I wasn’t thinking when I said it?” What foolishness! Matthew quotes Jesus in his Gospel, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak.” We will all stand before the Lord and answer not only for the words we cruelly spoke on purpose, but also for those spoken thoughtlessly. This startling reality compels us to give thought to our words before they leave our mouths.

Your Words Can Tear Down

“With his mouth the godless man would destroy his neighbor, but by knowledge the righteous are delivered.” Proverbs 11:9
“Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent.” Proverbs 11:12
“A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself.”  Proverbs 11:17
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” Proverbs 18:21

These verses from Proverbs speak to us of the damage our words can inflict on other people. The godless man destroys his neighbor with his words. The person who lacks sense will belittle his neighbor. Then we reflect again on the words of Proverbs 18:21 and remember our words have the capacity to bring death to another person.

For the husband, we must read these verses and recall that his wife is his closest neighbor. Everything the Bible says about loving your neighbor applies first to the person with whom you share a bed. If you speak harshly to your wife, constantly criticize her, use biting sarcasm, and speak to her with a general lack of respect for her feelings you will crush her and your marriage. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen. The sad irony is that in crushing your wife you crush your own happiness. Your joy in marriage is dependent upon her joy in marriage. If she feels belittled, critiqued, disrespected, and unloved, you have stolen your own joy and dishonored Jesus who died for you.

Your Words Can Build Up

“A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself.”  Proverbs 11:17
“Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” Proverbs 16:24
“Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.” Proverbs  21:23

If death and life are in the power of the tongue, we can’t only focus on the death that the tongue can bring.  Notice some of the things Solomon says about our words in these passages. He compares gracious words to a honeycomb which bring sweetness to the soul and health to the body. A husband’s words have the capability to bring life, joy, and encouragement to his wife. Also, where a cruel husband steals his own joy by stealing his wife’s joy, the wise husband increases his own joy by increasing his wife’s joy.

The wise husband will give long consideration to how he can speak to his wife in a way that builds her up rather than tearing her down. This doesn’t mean that he has to follow her around every second paying her compliments, but it does mean he will begin by showing his wife the basic kindness and consideration. Then he will give thought to specific ways he can compliment and encourage his wife. In addition, there will be times when a husband must point out things in his wife’s life that she needs to address. The wise husband does this in a way that his wife sees his concern for the good of her soul and knows he is speaking our of love for her.

Husbands, you have been called to love your wives as Christ loved the church for the glory of his great name and for your wife’s joy. Where do you need to repent for the way you speak to your wife? How do you need to grow in wisdom in the way you speak to your wife? How can your words bring glory to God and joy to the wife of your youth?

Related Posts:
Why the Bible Doesn’t Have Much ‘Marriage Advice’
What Happens When Your Marriage Doesn’t Have an Eject Button

For Further Reading:
Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas
The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller

Scott Slayton

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Scott Slayton is the Lead Pastor at Chelsea Village Baptist Church in Chelsea, AL. He and Beth have been married since 2003 and have four children.