Words. We read them, we write them, we treasure them, we disdain them. Most often, we say them. Words matter immensely to us! How we use them can cause life or death (Proverbs 18:21). I’m sure you can think of a time that someone’s words hurt you… or, even worse, when your words hurt someone else.
They are important. And we need to treat them that way. It is very easy to not think about what you say and just say it. But, as I’ve studied the Psalms, I have learned that the Psalmist is constantly turning his heart to praise the Lord.
I know there are other passages that instruct us in our speech. Specifically Ephesians 4:29, “Let no unwholsesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” And Proverbs 16:24, “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”
The Psalms and Our Words
But it has been the Psalms that have convicted me the most in how I talk. Now, just to be clear, I do not go around the house swearing or cursing, spouting profanities. That would definitely not be pleasant, nor wholesome, and not glorifying to God. No, that is not my practice.
Instead, I’ve realized that I practice a much more subtle way of not glorifying God with my words. While they are usually pleasant to the hearer, maybe even encouraging and full of grace, they are still not including God in my everyday language. I’ve noticed that I use secular, common words in place of praising God or signifying His presence as I talk. And, friend, I am pretty sure you do too.
At first, I didn’t even think that this was a problem. I mean, I’m not swearing after all! But, I was wrong. If all our lives are to be glorifying to God as 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, then ALL of our speech should be too. And if we view God for who He truly is, then our words should be an overflow of that attitude.
The Psalms that have showed this to be true. How could I read verses like Psalm 106:48, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting even to everlasting, And let all the people say, ‘Amen.’ Praise the Lord!” or Psalm 103:1, “Blessed be the LORD, O my soul. And all that is within me, bless His holy name.” or Psalm 109:30, “With my mouth I will give thanks abundantly to the Lord; and in the midst of many I will praise Him.” and let some of my own words not praise the Lord? Even if they are not “bad” words, they still aren’t bringing Him glory.
So, I have slowly started switching out certain words in my vocabulary for ones that will point me back to Christ so that I can speak of Him in everyday conversations, bring Him glory with ALL of my speech, and, Lord-willing, point other people back to Him as well.
Here’s what I’ve been working on… Join me!
These simple swaps are what I am working on changing in my words.
1. “Hope” to “Pray”
This first one is very simple. Wherever you would use the word “hope” replace it with “pray.”
“I hope you do well on your test.” “I hope your labor and delivery goes well.” “I hope that your dad gets better.” All of those phrases can simply be turned into, “I pray you do well on your test.” I pray your labor and delivery goes well.” “I pray that your dad gets better.”
Not that hoping or the word “hope” is wrong, it’s fine. But, why not turn a conversation to the Lord by saying you are praying? You could go even further and say, “I pray to God that…”
Make Sure to Pray
Just a quick note here, if you tell someone you are praying for them or that you’re going to, make sure that you actually pray for them. Take a second when you say, “I’m praying for you,” to actually stop and pray for that person or situation.
2. “Hopefully” to “Lord-Willing”
The next simple swap is from saying “hopefully” to saying “Lord-willing.” Now this one even has some scriptural backing. James 4:15 says, “You ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.’” So, there is our reason right there. Here are a few examples.
“Hopefully our offer will get accepted.” “I will hopefully make it by 10AM.” “The storm will hopefully not hit us.” Switched to: “Lord-willing our offer will get accepted.” “Lord-willing, I will make it by 10AM.” “The storm will, Lord-willing, not hit us.”
Again, hoping and hopefully getting somewhere is definitely not wrong. But it’s another way to include the Lord in your vocabulary. And, personally, I love starting out a sentence with, “Lord-willing.” What a reminder that it’s not about what we want or think or do, it’s about what God wills for us.
3. “Lucky” to “Blessed”
As we go through our days, sometimes it seems like there are coincidences and things that happen at the same time and just the right moment. But we know that we serve the Lord who is in charge of every detail of our lives. So there really are no coincidences with Him. Therefore, there is no such thing as luck either.
So instead of saying, “You are lucky,” when something good happens to someone or to yourself, say, “You are blessed.” Or if you’re telling a story and talking about yourself, say, “I am blessed that…”
I realize that this word, “blessed,” is used by many as well. But, I still think it is a simple swap because you are turning your heart to God and there is a chance for others to turn to Him as well, or at the very least, be aware of His presence in blessing you.
4. “By chance” to “By God’s Grace”
Chance is another word that is similar to “lucky.” Many today believe that all the world operates by chance. R. C. Sproul said, “Some have taken the word chance, which has no power, and used it as a replacement for the concept of God. But the truth, as the Bible makes clear, is that nothing happens by chance and that all things are under the sovereign government of God, which is exceedingly comforting to the Christian who understands it.” [What Can We Know About God?, Pg. 66].
So, when you’re starting your next story of how you reconnected with an old friend after seeing them at the store or how you just happened to be driving by when your neighbor needed help, say, “By God’s grace” instead of just “by chance.”
Not only is the statement true, for we live and move and have our being in God (Acts 17:28), but it also opens up another avenue of pointing to God’s common grace in your life which is often left out of conversation.
5. “That’s great!” to “Praise the Lord!”
When I hear good news from someone, I often use the phrase, “That’s wonderful!” And, while it’s a totally true statement, I would much rather say, “Praise the Lord!” My daughter has actually picked up on this one and she now says “Praise the Lord!” for almost everything… finding roly polies on our walks, taking a bite of a maple donut, getting a package at the door.
It is usually her words that remind me to also praise the Lord for every little thing. All blessings do flow from Him.
6. “Oh my goodness/OMG” to “Wow’
Now, this one might just be the hardest swap of all… I don’t know if I should label it as “simple.”
Saying “oh my God” is such a common thing nowadays (maybe it’s always been and I just don’t know). So common that I’m sure we say it without even giving it a second thought. Or, if we do give it a second thought, we replace it with “oh my goodness.” I would argue that both of these exclamations are not a good choice. Let’s look at them one by one.
“Oh My God”
Hopefully… I mean, Lord-willing, you can decipher for yourself why I would caution against this phrase. But I’ll give you my thoughts just in case. When we say, “oh my God,” as an exclamation it is really just that, an exclamation. The definition of an exclamation is “a sharp or sudden utterance” in the Merriam Webster dictionary.
Now, what does that definition tell us? That when we exclaim it is a sudden reaction to whatever happened or was heard. So, when we say God’s name as an exclamation we are simply using it instead of another word. We are not referring to God in prayer, or calling to Him for help, or even telling Him about the situation that made us say the words. No, we are just using the phrase as an exclamation. We also use this phrase similarly as an interjection (interjecting it into a sentence or to interrupt someone else because we are astounded by what they are saying.)
As believers we are supposed to lift God’s name up high (see Isaiah 52:13-15), to venerate it, to hold it in high authority over us. One of the ten commandments instructs us to not take the Lord’s name in vain (Exodus 20:7). So if we’re supposed to have God’s name high and lifted up, sacred, then how can we simply, glibly say it as exclamation or interjection?
God and His name should be held in high esteem and treasured. We should not be glibly throwing it around or saying it just because we can’t think of something else to say.
How we treat God’s name shows how we view God. If your view of God is big, you think about how great, awesome, powerful, holy, mighty, and just He is (among other things), you won’t be saying His name at every surprise that comes your way. And the opposite is also true. If you do not see God as high and lifted up, holy and true, it would be easy to throw His precious name around at every turn.
This is why I think it would serve us well to swap out this phrase for something else. We want to carry a high view of God and His righteous works in our hearts at all times so that we can honor Him and point others to Him.
“Oh My Goodness”
Okay, so, don’t think I’m crazy. But I don’t think you should say “oh my goodness” instead of “oh my God.” I know, I know, you’re probably saying some interjections right now. But let me explain.
God is the definition of good. Because He is the one, true, holy God, He is goodness itself. In theological terms, James Dolezal says, “In [God’s] essence, it is not one thing to be good, another to be wise, another to be powerful, and so on. Rather, the reality in virtue of which all these things are truly said of God is nothing but His own simple divinity. Properly speaking, God is good by virtue of God, not goodness… And when we say that God is goodness itself… we do not mean that these are so many really distinct parts or forms in God, but simply that He is all that is involved in these terms by virtue of His own divine essence as such. … There is nothing in God that is not identical with His divinity, nothing that is not just God Himself.” [All That Is In God, James Dolezal, pg. 43]
So, when we choose to replace “oh my God” with “oh my goodness” and God IS all goodness, we are essentially still saying, “oh my God.” We are still flippantly speaking about God [goodness] and we are not revering God and His name as we should.
That’s why I do not think we should say “oh my goodness” instead of “oh my God.” To me, it is just as bad as “OMG” and it only serves as filler words with no meaning, which should not be the case when we talk about our Lord and Savior, our holy and good God.
Instead of saying these phrases, I’m working on saying, “Wow!” “How cool!” or “What?!” This is probably the hardest switch, and I don’t know if I’d label it as “simple.” So, so many people, even Christians, say these two phrases for everything. So I find myself wanting to say it all the time! But it is even more opportunity to turn my heart to the Lord and the true power of His name so that I revere Him and respect Him in what I say.
Our Speech Reflects Our Heart
That is really what this post is all about. I touched on it before, but how we see God in our own hearts directs how we speak and talk. Jesus even said that “out of the heart, the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34).
So, maybe we need to start first by checking our hearts. Do we see God as the one, true, holy God who created the world by His voice, who guides our every action, who sent His only Son to die in our place, who is preparing a wonderful place for all who believe in Him? I pray that we will see God in this way and let our words reflect what is in our hearts. Then we will be able to say with the Psalmist, “With my mouth I will give thanks abundantly to the Lord; and in the midst of many I will praise Him.”
Give it a try! Make some of these simple switches and let me know how it works in your own heart and life. Just leave a comment below with what you did.
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