When Your Message is Right but Your Tone is Wrong


A story in Acts 16:16-18 caught my attention recently:

“It happened that as we were going to the place of prayer, a slave-girl having a spirit of divination met us, who was bringing her masters much profit by fortune-telling. Following after Paul and us, she kept crying out, saying, ‘These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation.’ She continued doing this for many days. But Paul was greatly annoyed, and turned and said to the spirit, ‘I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!’ And it came out at that very moment.” (NASB)

At first I wondered why it irritated Paul so much. The girl wasn’t saying anything bad. If anything, she was confirming the truth of why Paul was there and in a sense was advertising for him.

I realized that maybe it wasn’t what she was saying that was so annoying, it was how she was saying it.

She likely followed them all over the place, constantly yelling her message and disrupting his ministry. We’re told that she was possessed by an evil spirit of divination, so it is likely that her words came with a sharp tone of contempt for God and his people. It was obnoxious and Paul finally had enough of it.

I was thinking about this story this week, and I’ve been trying to be more aware of how my words can impact others, especially my delivery and tone of voice. I have a strong sense of wanting to share biblical truth (which isn’t a bad thing) but even truth can be unwelcome if it’s delivered in an obnoxious way.

There are so many issues to debate and so many ideas that go against God’s truth, but my focus these days is to become more discerning. I ask myself: is the Holy Spirit prompting me to speak? Or is this just me wanting to give my opinion or win the argument?

I’m learning to pause before I speak and ask the Lord if he wants me to speak up and if so, what he wants me to say and how he wants me to say it.

I want my words to be tempered with grace that honors the Lord and edifies the person receiving them, even if they may be hard words of truth. I want to check my words and the motivation behind them before engaging in a conversation so that God will be glorified.

Today, I’m focusing on Ephesians 4:29: “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”




Have you experienced someone saying something (or being told something) right in a wrong way? How did it affect you or others?

Say a prayer to God asking him for wisdom before you speak.