Jesus said, ‘Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.’ Matthew 12:34 (NIV)
Have you ever spoken a word, or perhaps more, and immediately wished you could take it back? Or spoken something in all honesty, but when it came out of your mouth it did not come across as you thought it would?
We all have issues with our speech. Most of the time they are simply faux pas, mistakes. We don’t intend them, but they are part of who we are. We are human. And usually we can explain them away, and we have a laugh with everyone who had the pleasure of witnessing our error. No harm has been done.
But sometimes, when we are emotional, angry, or frightened, the words that escape our rule over them are not words or sentences anyone will ever laugh at. They can have lasting effects, and may radically change relationships and life situations. They may change how people look at us, and even how we look at ourselves. And they can bring lasting harm to those to whom they are addressed.
Proverbs 18:21 tells us, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” What does that mean, you ask? It simply means that our tongues can either lift and encourage a person, or they can so affect a person as to cause them to fall to despair, even, perhaps, death itself. If we choose the righteous way of speech, we will reap goodness. If we choose to speak in our flesh, we will reap what we have sown.
Do we like having this power living within us? Sometimes we should. But often we should not. We must use the wisdom God gives to show us when, why and how to speak life, not death, to another person. This does not mean we should not chastise our children when they do wrong, or speak earnestly to one who is in a sinful situation, one which may threaten their walk with the Lord. But we must learn how to keep from just speaking out, without thought or reason, without intention and grace. Our tongues unleashed will create nothing but havoc, when the complete opposite is possible when we follow the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Love, kindness, forgiveness … these things include the type of speech a follower of Jesus should employ. We must always think before we speak, until this becomes an absolute habit with us. It does not mean we cannot relax around those closest to us; it merely means that when a habit becomes so ingrained in us that we do not really know when we are following it, then it has become our own way. In this case, it is the way of Christ, and as His disciples, we should not only walk the way He walks, but we also must speak the way He speaks.
We will always make mistakes. We will let a word slip out, or reveal a secret, or simply show our anger in words. When this happens, the right thing to do is ask Jesus for forgiveness first. Then we ask for it from the person we have offended. It doesn’t matter if what we said was truth or not. If it was said from an incorrect perspective, or with the wrong choice of words, an apology, a sincere one, must be offered. And whether it is accepted or not, we have done what God’s people are commanded to do.
The spoken and the written word can be precious and sweet and life-giving. It can also be something entirely different. Since Jesus is Our Hope, He will show us the way, and help us, in learning how to control our tongues, and our emotions as well. His example is perfect, and we can learn from simply reading His words in the Bible. Hope comes at His hand, and we will learn how to control that which has the power of life and death.
“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:6
When did you last allow your tongue to control you? What did the Lord show you as you worked through the results of your error? Please comment here, and let us either rejoice with you in your victory, or pray for the victory to come!