The Art of Speech

Anecdotes and Humor > Part 1

Levity Inappropriate. The minister of God is not to speak words which will create levity. We have been bought with the price of a great sacrifice, even the sacrifice of God’s only begotten Son.

No Light, Trifling Words. The minister of the gospel who is a laborer together with God, will learn daily in the school of Christ. . . .No light, trifling words will fall from his lips; for is he not an ambassador for Christ, bearing a divine message to perishing souls? All jesting and joking, all lightness and trifling, is painful to the cross-bearing disciple of Christ.

Conversation in Heaven. All lightness and trifling is positively forbidden in the Word of God. His conversation should be in heaven, his words seasoned with grace.

A Worthy Example for Youth. Ministers should set the youth a worthy example, one corresponding to their holy calling. . . . They are to put away all coarseness, all trifling, ever remembering that they are educators; that, whether they will or not, their words and acts are to those with whom they come in contact a savor of life or of death.

Decorum in the Sacred Desk. What can the minister do without Jesus? Verily, nothing. Then if he is a frivolous, joking man, he is not prepared to perform the duty laid upon him by the Lord. “Without Me,” says Christ, “ye can do nothing.” The flippant words that fall from his lips, the trifling anecdotes, the words spoken to create a laugh, are all condemned by the Word of God, and are entirely out of place in the sacred desk.

No Slang Phrases. The minister should be free from every unnecessary temporal perplexity, that he may give himself wholly to his sacred calling. He should be much in prayer, and should bring himself under discipline to God, that his life may reveal the fruits of true self-control. His language should be correct; no slang phrases, no cheap utterances, should fall from his lips.

In Christ’s Stead. Ministers cannot be too guarded, especially before the young. They should use no lightness of speech, jesting or joking, but should remember that they are in Christ’s stead, that they must illustrate by example the life of Christ.

No Jesting in the Pulpit. The minister who is ready to engage in frivolous conversation, ready to jest and laugh, does not realize the sacred obligations resting upon him, and if he goes from such an exercise to the pulpit, the Lord cannot stand by his side to bless him. . . . Flowery discourses will not be sufficient to feed the soul of the famishing child of God.

Speech Seasoned With Grace. Let trifling and joking be banished from the conversation of the minister, but let his speech be seasoned with grace; let the light and love of Jesus shine in his example and precept, that souls may be won for the Master.

Abuse of the Gospel. Some who stand in the pulpit make the heavenly messengers in the audience ashamed of them. The precious gospel, which it has cost so much to bring to the world, is abused. There is common, cheap talk; grotesque attitudes and workings of the features. There is, with some, rapid talking, with others a thick, indistinct utterance.

Common Words of Human Devising. The messages of truth are to be kept entirely free from cheap, common words of human devising. Thus forcible impressions will be made upon hearts. Let not our ministers cherish the idea that they must bring forth something new and strange, or that cheap, common expressions will give them influence. Ministers are to be the mouthpiece of God, and they must eradicate from their speech every expression that is cheap or common. Let them be careful lest by attempting during their discourse to cause laughter, they dishonor God.

Our message is a solemn and sacred one, and we must watch unto prayer. The words uttered must be of such a character that through them God can make an impression on heart and mind. Let the ministers of the gospel be sanctified through the truth.

This article is excerpted from the book The Voice in Speech and Song, pp. 269—272, by Ellen G. White