“Rights! We demand our rights!” is a cry often heard in these tumultuous times. Citizens do have rights in the United States of America not found in many nations around the world. A precious right that is guaranteed in the Constitution, under the Bill of Rights in the First Amendment, states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” All these rights are precious as individual freedoms, with freedom of speech being the cornerstone.
In recent years, many have sought to “peaceably assemble” to exercise these rights, only to have the process co-opted by anarchists or special interest groups intent on causing mayhem and chaos. City squares have been burned, stores and other businesses looted, and vehicles destroyed, resulting in many personal injuries and even loss of life. It has brought about sad scenes as feckless, impotent local, state, and federal authorities have watched it happen, often without intervention.
It illustrates how a civil right meant to promote peace and to allow people to be heard for the common good can be misused to the detriment of all. Local communities, rich and poor, have been victimized and disrupted. Residents have expressed fear and outrage, but the saga continues! The world at large, which has looked to the United States of America as a shining city on a hill, an example for others to follow, witness this lawlessness in dismay. National adversaries of the United States watch with glee as they seek to displace America and become the dominant powers on the world scene.
While we as individuals can’t fix the political and societal problems we see all about us, we can personally decide how to use our of freedom speech in a positive and productive way, lessening stress and promoting peace of mind.
There is an authoritative source, seldom consulted, that contains timeless instruction on the benefits and the pitfalls in the manner and content of our speech. The basic principle is found in the rules of conduct called the Ten Commandments, given anciently by God to Moses at Mt. Sinai. The ninth Commandment states, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Your utterances must be true. King Solomon of the Hebrews mused, “Lying lips conceal hatred, and whoever utters slander is a fool. When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but the prudent are restrained in speech” (Proverbs 10:18–19, New Revised Standard Version).
James, the brother of Jesus, said, “So then…let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19–20).
Timing is important in expressing one’s thoughts, opinions, and positions. Solomon succinctly stated, “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven,” adding “a time to keep silence and a time to speak” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7).
Paul cautioned about the tone and quality of one’s speech. “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good…that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29, King James Version). He added, “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Colossians 4:6). Notice—seasoned with salt, not peppered with profanity!
Words can calm down a volatile situation. “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). Or, they can inflame with disastrous results; “the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest fire a little fire kindles!” (James 3:4).
Where does this discussion of free speech lead? Again, the answer is found in the Bible. Jesus Christ revealed that the words we speak have consequences for each person. “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:34–37).
The Tomorrow’s World television program, as well as the magazines, study guides, and other publications of the Living Church of God, take full advantage of the privilege granted under the Constitution to speak freely, presenting Biblical truths in the U.S. and around the world. Some countries will not allow our programs to be aired, citing biblical descriptions of sinful activities as “hate speech.” Actually, by defining sinful activities and encouraging righteousness and a healthy Way of life, we promote the biblical principle given by Jesus: “You shall love you neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39; Leviticus 19:18). Powerful words uttered by the Messiah.
Not only do we speak freely, but all our publications and study materials are provided free of any charge. They are available at TomorrowsWorld.org.