What do the Scriptures teach about verbal abuse?


By BibleAsk Team

Verbal Abuse

Verbal abuse is defined as harsh and insulting language directed at a person.  Although the term “verbal abuse,” is not found in the Scriptures, there is much instruction in the Bible concerning negative words. A harsh word “speaks like the piercings of a sword” (Proverbs 12:18). The hasty impatient person can speak words that wound the souls of those around him and lead to great suffering and sorrow. Over the long term, verbal abuse can leave the victim feeling uncertain, unable to make decisions, and drained of any sense of person-hood or value.

The Power of Life and Death

Unfortunately, the victim begins to accept the blame and believe the crushing words that are convincingly and repeatedly thrown at him. In this sense, “The tongue has the power of life and death” (Proverbs 18:21). The tongue can darken a reputation and drive a person into despair or even death.

Small as it is, the tongue can do great harm (James 3:5). The apostle James declared, “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. . . . With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness” (James 3:6, 9). A man may be “double-tongued,” as well as “double minded” (James 1:8).

Words That Defile

Christ declared, “what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man” (Matthew 15:11). Cursing springs from hate and shows the spirit of Satan, “the accuser of our brethren” (Revelation 12:10). For “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Luke 6:45).

Even using the word fool to a person deserves judgement. Jesus said, “Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ [an Aramaic term of contempt meaning “worthless, empty”] is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell” (Matthew 5:21–22). If the Savior refused to bring a “railing accusation” against the devil (Jude 9), we should refrain from doing so in regard to our fellow men. We are to leave with God the work of judging and condemning a person’s motives.

Christians should be careful on how to use their words for their words will determine how they will be judged by God. “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:37).

Words That Edify

Words said by the believers should always edify or build up, making men better than they were before they heard the words. As the Christian’s ministry is to be for the benefit of others, so his words also are to be for the good. That which does not edify tears down and is, therefore, to be rejected. Paul instructed the believers to “encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). And he taught that we “do not let any unwholesome talk come out of [our] mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs” (Ephesians 4:29).

Those who practice verbal abuse, and allow it to rule, will do much harm, but the harm will return upon them (Matthew 12:36). But those that purpose to use their words according to God’s will, which is to bless, comfort and preach the good news of the gospel, will reap great benefits (Proverbs 12:18)

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

See also: In what manner should the Christian reproof a sinner?

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