A writer should think carefully about the meaning of the words he or she uses. After all, that is part of the writer’s trade. What base meaning does the word convey (denotation)? What are the images, symbols, and emotions are associated with said word (connotation)?
By using that particular word, what am I trying to tell my readers? Am I trying to encourage, to convince, to convict, to dissuade, or to entertain? My goal will drive the use of my words. This is equally true of the spoken word.
The Bible has a lot to say about our words. God chose to express himself in words; he even calls himself the Word (Jn. 1:1-2). In Proverbs 25:11, Solomon compares an apt word at the right time to golden apples on a silver tray: they are beautiful and valuable. He also says that the power of life and death lie in what we say (Pr. 18:21). James calls the tongue a restless evil (Jas. 3:6-8) and says only the truly mature can control it (Jas. 3:1). Jesus himself warns that we will come under judgment for every word we say (Mt. 12:36-37).
Considering these points, how carefully do we choose our words? Do we stop to think what we are actually saying, or are we just parroting what we hear in society around us? Do we consider what a word means in all of its facets before we use it?
Over the years I’ve seen how the misapplication of terms has brought thought processes into the Church that are counter to Scripture, thought processes that could easily be avoided by changing our vocabulary. In her article “Why You Should Stop Using the Word ‘Gender’”
, Stella Morabito points out one specific word in our language that is specifically being used to create confusion and today has gotten to the point where it even denies the existence of male and female. She explains that the choice of a specific word can obfuscate important social and cultural meanings. Thus, when we use the word “gender”, we subconsciously support the many contexts that our society uses it as; especially because “gender” is also a grammatical term which allows for things to be neuter as well as masculine or feminine. If we are affirming male and female as described biblically (see Ge. 1:27; cp. Ge. 2:20b-24), perhaps it would be better to pull out the much less ambiguous term “sex”
when talking about men and women; or else when using “gender” making it crystal clear that in this instance we are specifically referring to only the two sexes that are found in Scripture.
As I have written before, saying “I’m good” can subconsciously convey the false understanding that we are good in and of ourselves, denying our sinful bent.
We should be careful about using the term “sinful nature” as it can convey an unbiblical helplessness in the face of sin.
We should consider the importance of wordplay in the Bible and how we can challenge others to think more deeply through it.
We need to think about the proper use of words in our hymns and praise songs, so they reflect God as he truly is.
Do not allow the fluidity or malleability of language detract from a careful use of words. Lack of clarity can be the playground of the devil, who, as the father of lies, revels in obfuscation. Christ who is the Word, the Truth, and the Light of the World, brings clarity where there is none; and the darkness cannot overcome, overwhelm, destroy, or envelop it. So, let us stop and think about what hidden meanings are in the words we use and choose our words wisely, so we can bless the Church and people around us and bring life through our tongues.