One of the intriguing things we find in Scripture is God's interest in how we speak to one another. Our Lord is not unconcerned with the words that flow from our hearts and off our lips. In fact, there is a deep relationship with the words that we speak and that which lies deep in our hearts. "Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks,' says Jesus (Luke 6:45) As we strive to live our lives in Christ-likeness, the words we speak are to reflect this deep desire.
There are several different ways that one can adopt simplicity in language. Firstly, one can attempt to reduce the amount of our talking. We wilfully attempt to avoid adding our words in situations that do not demand it. In her book, Abundant Simplicity, Jan Johnson writes about our culture being one that is 'enslaved to talking.' This enslavement is not merely about the amount of talking that occurs, but the constant look for windows in which we can insert our own voice and opinion. This may occur out of a desire to sway other people to our way of thinking, or because we want others to view us in a certain way. In either instance, the motivation to speak stems from the desire to control. We manage situations, conversations, and people through the multiplicity of our words. This sense of management ultimately divorces us from authentic listening and true connection.
Attempting to reduce our 'talking', while being uncomfortable, allows us to be more fully present with one another, and with the presence of God. The call to 'be quick to listen and slow to speak' naturally moves us into the spiritual space where we wait for God to reveal His voice and will, before we attempt to exert our own. The prayer 'not my will but thine be done' equally involves the prayer 'not my voice, but thine be heard.' Simplicity in speech frees us from the stressful attempt to manage what others think of us. We remind ourselves that we do not need to know all the answers; we do not need to be in control. Here we uncover the joy of listening and connecting - we may even be surprised by deep expressions of the Spirit.
Yet simplicity in speech isn't just about the amount of talking we do. Sometimes simplicity in language is about the type of words we use. The epistle of James records the need to 'tame the tongue' and 'not speak evil against one another.' Paul also encourages the people in Ephesus to 'let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up.' It seems like the childhood lesson of 'if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all' has strong roots. Hurtful language does not build up the kingdom of God. In gossip, vitriol, and whatever else we may classify as 'evil talk', we vainly attempt to wield a sense of moral and spiritual superiority. We speak only out of pride and vanity and not out of love or grace.
Instead of speaking evil to one another, we are challenged in scripture to 'speak as if speaking the very words of God.' We are called to consciously view our words as gifts that God has blessed us with for the purpose of revealing HIs presence. We edify, praise, and support. Our words become testimonies that speak to a life lived in relationship with God, and thus become expressions of the very nature of God's kingdom.
Of course simplicity in speech is not for everyone, nor is it to be practiced all the time. This is not an excuse to avoid responsibility. Obviously there are times where we engage in discussion, voice our opinions, and seek to 'explain ourselves' for any number of reasons. Yet what is important in this is the spiritual motivation behind our decision to reduce our talking. This isn't a legalistic refusal to speak, but a spiritual action aimed at making us more attune to God's voice.