Saturday, December 23, 2017

Out of the Abundance of the Heart!

"Words are power. Whether used to twist or reveal, language matters..." Washington Post

If you're older than five, you're more than likely to have heard the saying "sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me." It is one of those little rhymes that parents teach their children to help them understand that they need to let go of insults and hurtful words sent in their direction. But, as with so many of these sayings that we all too often take for granted, it is not true. Sure, sticks and stones will hurt your bones, but words can be as painful as any physical object. And they can be as or more painful because of the effect they will have on the soul of the hearers. And that is not even to take into account that many a child will understand the rhyme as meaning that they can insult others without hurting the hearer.

One of the issues that many Christians encounter when they attempt to minister to the world around them, is the issue of speech. The world is awash in perverse and destructive speech that, all too often, is looked upon as just the way things are. Even among those who profess to be Christian believers, you will often find speech that will literally make your hair stand on end. It reminds me of Paul's scolding of the church in Corinth where incest was looked upon as something good and wholesome. Paul is aghast at such disdain for truth telling his readers "sin that is not even named among the unbelievers." Truly, among some "Christians" speech is even more destructive and perverse than among unbelievers.

Of course, the excuse that is often proffered by the speech offenders is that "they're just words" and with that they will go on with their filthy language. Does the Bible, however, have anything to say about the way we speak and the words we use? Of course it does! And it does in quite a few places, in part because the way that we speak demonstrates what is in our hearts. And speaking of the heart, Jesus told his disciples that "the good man, out of the good that is in his heart, brings good things, for out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks" (Luke 6:45). There can be no confusion about the fact that what you hear is coming from the heart. They are not just words, they tell the hearer what is in the speaker’s heart. Regardless of how much you may protest to the contrary, the only one who knows the heart told us that words do matter.

Perhaps you've heard that the language of the world is complaining. And indeed, who among us hasn't gone through their day hearing an unending litany of complaints coming from the lips of people who, by all accounts, are among the richest (in worldly terms) in the world. Unfortunately, this too has infiltrated the church to the point that we think little of our constant complaining. We complain about our health, about our lack of money, about the weather. Everything and anything is a cause for complaint. Since the church is composed of people who have come from the world, it is not surprising that it would find within its ranks those who are immature and who still cling to some of the things of this world. However, as a Christian matures, those issues should become less prevalent. Remember that complaining is not some innocent matter. In Numbers 11, we are told the story of God's punishment of the people because of their complaining. Perhaps some of our troubles are the result of our complaining attitude.

On the other hand, the language of the church is the language of praise and thanksgiving. But if we are constantly engaging in complaining, then how are we different than the world? And, if we indeed believe that God controls all things and that He does whatever He pleases (Psalms 135:6), then how can we complain about anything that comes our way? Will the difficulties not come from God in order to accomplish His purposes in us? On the contrary, we should have the attitude of Paul who was grateful, even for his chains because these afforded him the opportunity to be a witness for the Lord.

In Ephesians 4:29, the same apostle Paul reminded the Ephesians of their responsibility to speak that which is edifying to the hearers. When we engage in destructive and filthy language, we are doing the exact opposite of what Paul enjoins us to do. As the people of God, we not only have a responsibility to be pure and blameless (Ephesians 5:27), but we also have a responsibility to those who hear us and see our manner of living. Our activities speak volumes about the God we serve. If our living and our speech are unholy and destructive, it will have a deleterious effect on the hearers and on their souls. As Christians, we are no longer our own, we have been bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Therefore, we are to glorify God in all we do and say. If we cannot control even our speech, it is not likely that we will be able to control our thoughts, and our actions.



  1. This may be your best post yet. Very well done. Variants of the "just words" excuse/mentality is central to the defense of many sins. The "it's just...(whatever)..." posture is almost always rationalization. Angry? Moody? Self-centered? "It's just the way I am." Lusting? "It's just the way men are..." Excusing homosexuality? "It's just sex." Indulging in corrupt entertainment? "It's just actors and a pretend story."

    I have met this "just words" delusion head on many times in public forums. It's the "go to" position of many wicked folk seeking justification for their verbal abuses and perversity. Many of these are relatively young people, cooked for 18 plus years in a stew of educational and cultural relativity where personal restraint and decorum are considered weakness and outmoded impediments, merely dusty relics of times gone by.

    Sometimes, in an effort to awake such people from their moral stupor, I ask them how they would feel if I encountered their parents or spouses in a public forum and berated them with such horrifically nasty speech? Or went into social media and advanced nasty lies about them to deliberate hurt and defame them? Or went to their employers and told them that they were child molesters?

    After all - it would be "only words."

    1. David, as always you are too kind. It is so important for us to "watch" our words. Anger, disappointment, discouragement, all lead to us saying things at times that we later regret. Thus, we add to the initial problem with the words that follow it. Thank you so much for you continued support and encouragement.