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The Snowball of Senseless Speech

The Snowball of Senseless Speech

There is a type of speech that requires our restraint. It is godless, and spirals into more areas of our lives. When we let it control our mouths it takes over everything. Do you play with this fire? If you do, it's time to put it out!

Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.

2 Timothy 2:16

            I remember the winter my husband and kids attempted to make the biggest snowball ever. The higher than normal snowfall accumulation that winter, coupled with three rambunctious children suffering from cabin fever, created the perfect setup for dad and kids frolicking in the snow while mom stayed safely inside, snuggled up under a blanket sipping peppermint tea.

            With snowsuits zipped tightly, mittens and gloves securely on, and scarves wound tightly around tender little faces, they ventured out into our backyard to create the monstrous, icy sphere. The snowball started with just a handful of flakes, packed tightly by my then nine-year-old daughter. One by one she took turns with her six- and three-year-old younger brothers as they rolled the ball all around our backyard, creating a crazy maze of squiggly lines on the winter ground.

            First the snowball started out sparkly white. But as it grew in size, it needed to be rolled on the ground that now began to sport less and less snow. As the snow stuck to the snowball, it exposed more trash and twigs that had been hidden underneath it: sticks, dried leaves left over from autumn, an occasional bubblegum wrapper or piece of newspaper. The once pristine snowball even began to pick up tiny stones and bits of dirt as it grew to be ginormous—as our three-year-old described it.

When finally it grew too large to be rolled anymore, it was a dingy globe of debris over four feet high! And as you might guess, it took many weeks for the snowball to melt to even half its size. In fact, even after the warm spring weather came, erasing any trace of snow on the ground or in the trees, the snowball still stood knee-high. It was stubborn and lasting, defiantly refusing to leave.

            2 Timothy 2:16 talks about a spiritual snowball that we sometimes build in our speech. When we engage in godless chatter, we run the risk of becoming more and more ungodly in our actions. Just what is this type of talk we are to refrain from that is mentioned on the pages of Scripture?

            The NIV translates this phrase “godless chatter.” Other versions of the Bible word it a little differently. The ESV reads “irreverent babble.” The NASB calls it “worldly and empty chatter.” The NKJV renders it “profane and idle babblings.” The original Greek words mean “an empty discussion of vain and useless matters.” In other words—senseless speech.

As we ponder these renderings, we see a few types of speech that fit this description.

  • Gossip. Gossip is any casual or unconstrained conversation that reports about other people. It typically involves details that have not been confirmed as being true. This would certainly fit the description of godless chatter.
  • Labeling. This form of speech may seem less serious but it is harmful as well and would fall under the category of godless chatter. Labeling is when we slap a title on a person that is not rooted in truth or that is tethered to a harmful stereotype. When we do this we are being prejudiced. Just look at the word prejudice. Within it we see the phrase “pre-judge.” This means we are rendering a judgment before we have all the facts
  • Petty arguments.  These waste our words fighting about trivial matters. Such discussions do not promote Christ nor build one another up. Petty arguments burn up time and are godless. They can also lead to holding grudges and fracturing relationships.
  • Slander. Slander is another form of harmful rhetoric. It vilifies a person or communicates a false statement that might harm their reputation. By law, if slander is proven, a judgment can be issued against the person speaking such words. Slander is serious business.
  • Idle words. The word idle means “without purpose or affect; pointless and without foundation.” We can think of it like a vehicle stuck in idle. It is just sitting there, making noise and polluting the air, yet not accomplishing anything or going anywhere. When our words are pointless and without foundation, they are idle words. There is no purpose; we are only filling the air with sound and stink.

            When we engage in any of the above types of senseless speech, we run the risk of our behavior snowballing, becoming even less Christ-like “because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.” We also model for our watching children a poor example they may begin to emulate. The best way to avoid this snowball effect is to not let any ungodly chatter leave our lips in the first place. So what can we do?

First, do not indulge. To indulge means to allow yourself the pleasure of something, usually something you know you should not be doing. When we indulge, at first it is fun. We might even get a little thrill that comes from knowing you shouldn’t be doing it. My mother used to say that sin is fun for a while, but then it comes back to bite you. This is very true with godless chatter. It comes back to haunt us, causing problems and damaging relationships. So when you feel that temptation to indulge—even if just a tad—run away fast!

Grab yourself a mouth guard. My son is a football player, and one of his indispensable pieces of equipment is a mouth guard. This shield, when properly worn, makes it nearly impossible to talk, but it also prevents injury from occurring if he strikes his mouth on another player or the ground. In the same way, we should ask God to set a guard over our mouths to prevent idle and destructive talk and to guard us from injury.

Finally, to help you to avoid senseless speech, write Psalm 141:3–4 out—either on paper or electronically—and place it where you will see it often: a sticky note on a mirror, the lock screen on your phone, etc… Purpose to read and recite the verse, committing it to memory. Then make it your earnest prayer.

“Set a guard over my mouth, Lord;

keep watch over the door of my lips.

Do not let my heart be drawn to what is evil

so that I take part in wicked deeds

along with those who are evildoers;

do not let me eat their delicacies.” (Psalm 141:3–4)

May we be prayerful and careful with our speech as we interact with our families, and with others, shunning the godless chatter that can lead to a big, ugly mess that takes weeks to melt away.

JUST RELEASED–new devotional AND an opportunity to join others in #DoingLentTogether on Facebook! Want help in watching your words? Grab a copy of Zip It: The Keep It Shut 40 Day ChallengeAnd be sure to get the details about a Facebook group where for 40 days during lent Karen Ehman will be leading a group that will be doing Lent together.  The members of this community won’t be giving up chocolate or chips, but instead will give up using our words wrongly!  {Details on the group found by clicking here.}

Karen’s New York Times bestselling book Keep It Shut covered many topics, including anger, truth-telling, people-pleasing, our digital tongues online, and gossip. Zip It! now takes a deeper look and offers practical how-to’s that will inspire you use your words to build, not to break; to bless, not to badger; to encourage, not to embitter; to praise, not to pounce.

Each of the forty interactive entries includes a Scripture verse focus for the day, a story or teaching point, and reflection questions with space for readers to write their answers and thoughts. Each entry ends with both a challenge that will help you carry out the directive in the verse and a prayer prompt.


Karen Ehman,

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