Faithlife
Faithlife

The Fruit of Our Words

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Matthew 12:33–37 ESV
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Let’s join together in Matthew chapter 12. I hope that you have had a great week; where’s all of our educator’s, students, support staff in our schools: would you stand up: let’s commit to praying for all of these standing today: they are missionaries being sent out tomorrow to one of the most overlooked missions fields: our public schools. I have been back in school or workshops for two weeks now: it has been the teaching of the teacher, and this year: I am very excited: my entire family is in the same district as me: we will be riding together every day, Shannon and I already started that process last week: and we haven’t been late yet so it’s a good start. It has been interesting though as our community is introduced to my wife: one individual thought that she was my sister because we look so much alike she said: which I guess we’ve turned into that couple that has been married so long: we creepily look alike, I don’t know. But, then there was a student of mine from last year that met Shannon: and asked: hey is that Mr. Cothran’s daughter? She better be glad she was my student last year, because she would have to feel my wrath this year. But, overall it has been a good week, with some good words of encouragment as we begin a new year, and in fact that is where I want to focus our time this morning: on our words. The last several weeks we have been focused in on supernatural vs. superficial faith: looking weekly at this prophecy of
2 Timothy 3:1–5 ESV
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.
We have focused much of our time on that last phrase: that this will be a people who have the appearance of godliness, they have the external appearance of Christianity, but deny it’s power. We also noted the other fruits of these individuals, however, and today want to focus in on their words: what do we know about their words: probably as lovers of self: they love talking about self, probably words of pride, words of arrogance, words of abuse and attack, certainly ungrateful words, unholy words, heartless words, slanderous words attacking others, words without self control, brutal words, treacherous words, reckless words, conceited words. Today, we want to focus in on our words, challenging ourselves do our words reflect a supernatural or a superficial filling of God? Every school year that I start as a teacher: I challenge myself with several of the passages I want to share with you today; it’s a challenge I need more often, a challenge each of us need more often. As far as my life is concerned: and maybe this is true for you: when it comes to my life without a doubt: the time we live in now is the most careless when it comes to the words we speak. With all respect to our national leaders: they are very much setting the negative example of this and many of us even in the church are following in that path. There is an old proverb that says: if the gold rusts, what then shall the iron do? We appoint our national leaders, these men and women into our political offices; they are our elected officials: they’re our leaders; they’re our authoritative figures; they’re, we could say the gold, and if the gold looks like that; if the gold is corrupting and rusting, what shall the iron do. If the gold is slandering, and filling speeches and debates with words of hate; what shall the iron do? If the gold gossips what shall the iron do; if the gold corrupts what shall the iron do; if the gold lies: what shall the iron do? If the gold rusts what shall the iron do?
Thursday I was in a wonderful professional development for teachers around the area: a man named Manny Scott spoke: and his presentation was very powerful, his testimony very powerful: of how he overcame his upringing in poverty, in an abusive home, in drugs, on the streets, in homelessness to now be a phd, private jet pilot, family man. And he was not ashamed to tell you what led to the change: it was Jesus Christ: Jesus using people who loved him and spoke powerful words into his life, even Jesus speaking through a drug addict doing the best to share his faith. He said something that I wrote down and truly believe as true: he said poverty is not the absence of money, poverty is the absence of people, people who can truly help you. Manny Scott shared some powerful words with me, he had some powerful words shared with him that delievered him from what seemed to be a hopeless situation. Certainly, look him up: his story is also a major contribution to the movie Freedom Writers, very powerful. Yet, while he was in Harrison, AR: he as a colored man running through town to exercise at 6 a.m. was met with a man driving a Harley Davidson: who stopped him in his tracks and cussed him up and down: for what reason: for having some color in his skin. Without a doubt Manny Scott heard a lot of encouragement while he was in Harrison, but of all the conversations he had: which one is going to stick with him the most when he remembers our little town? I can’t say for sure, but I bet that man on the motorcycle would call himself a believer of Jesus, most do around here right: they can share words of hate, yet do so while calling themselves Christians. But, before we judge that man: perhaps we should evaluate ourselves and the beam that could be in our own eye when it comes to our words: the gossip we share behind someones back: yet smile to their face, the slander we unleash on others, the complaints we share that don’t share the full story, the full truth so as to paint ourselves as the victim or as the superior. The Word of God has much to say on this topic, so I will be hopping around some, but primarily we are going to look at Jesus’ words here in Matthew 12 to guide us:
Matthew 12:33–37 ESV
33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
As we look at this passage: I just want to focus in on two points that our Lord is making here. First, the significance and power of every word we speak. Secondly, the source and healing of our words. The significance and the source, the power and the healing

1. The Significance of Every Word

Jesus shows us in this passage how significant every single word we speak is: on the day of judgment, he says: we will give an account for every careless word we speak: every, each one, all of them and by them we will be justified, or by them we will be condemned: It doesn’t mean that our words bring us salvation, it means that our words show who we are, and it is by who we are that we are justified. Our words, then, are our works that justify, that is prove our faith. Your salvation is either justified or falsified by the words that you speak. This passage is a wakeup call to us who see our words of little or no significance, little or no evidence of our salvation. But, in reality we speak on average 18,000 words per day; they say women average more around 30,000 words per day mark, I better not comment on that. But, if we take the low average still a lot of words: 18,000: if you were to take your daily words and put them into a book you would come out with a 54 page book every day: put together every year you would have 20,000 pages. You will spend 1/5th of your life talking. There is so much opportunity for positive impact with your words: there is so much opportunity for you to impact others’ lives by your encouragement, but realize the severity: there is so much opportunity for destruction with your words as well. There is much evidence in your words, then, to justify your faith or falsify your faith. Do you see the significance of our words? That is why throughout the Word of God: it’s better to just shut your mouth and don’t talk. Sometimes you hear people brag on the fact that they talk a lot, there’s nothing to brag about though when you start looking in Scripture. Let me share a few verses to emphasize that.
Proverbs 10:14 ESV
The wise lay up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool brings ruin near.
Proverbs 10:19 ESV
When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.
Words are many: sins are many, those who restrain their lips: their prudent, they are thinking about the future in other words, they are focused on eternity, they are able to see the impact of every single word that they speak.
Proverbs 13:3 ESV
Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.
Proverbs 17:27 ESV
27 Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.
Proverbs 17:28 ESV
28 Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.
Proverbs 18:2 ESV
2 A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.
Proverbs 20:19 ESV
19 Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler.
Proverbs 12:18 ESV
There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
Proverbs 29:20 ESV
20 Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.
Proverbs 30:32 ESV
32 If you have been foolish, exalting yourself, or if you have been devising evil, put your hand on your mouth.
Proverbs 21:23 ESV
23 Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.
Proverbs 29:11 ESV
11 A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.
Proverbs 29:11 ESV
11 A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.
Proverbs 29:
Proverbs 29:11 ESV
11 A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.
Proverbs
Proverbs 29:20 ESV
20 Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.
Proverbs
Proverbs 30:32 ESV
32 If you have been foolish, exalting yourself, or if you have been devising evil, put your hand on your mouth.
Proverbs 30:
Ecclesiastes 5:1–7 ESV
1 Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. 2 Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. 3 For a dream comes with much business, and a fool’s voice with many words. 4 When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow. 5 It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. 6 Let not your mouth lead you into sin, and do not say before the messenger that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry at your voice and destroy the work of your hands? 7 For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear.
Every word we speak is significant, so if we can’t control the tongue: it’s better just not to talk, right? If we can’t control ourselves at the beauty parlor: it’s best to keep silent or not go, if we can’t control ourselves with the cell phone throw it away, if we can’t control ourselves on social media: burn the account. That’s the principle Jesus gives us in : if you’re eye is wondering: pluck it out, if your hand is sinning: cut it off. That’s Solomon’s point throughout Proverbs: shut your mouth, because your words are filled with foolishness and poison. Now, let’s look over at the book of James, James chapter 3 and you can probably just stick a bookmark in James, because we will be coming back to James.
In chapter 3 verses 1–5 : it’s all about how powerful words are. Verse 1 says teachers will be judged more harshly. Well, what’s that got to do with the subject? Everything. It’s saying the more words you use, the more severely you’ll be judged, and that shows God takes words, every single one of the them: very, very seriously. Why does Jesus say in this amazing statement which still makes me tremble, “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.” Aw, gee … Every careless word! Why? says, “Life and death are in the power of the tongue.” Look at these three metaphors at the beginning of the third chapter of James though: Verse 3: “A little bit in the mouth of the horse turns the whole horse.” Verse 4: “A little rudder turns the whole huge ship.” Verse 5: “A little spark can start a forest fire that destroys thousands of lives and millions of acres.” What are all these metaphors getting across? The power of your speech. The power of your words. Your words are much more powerful than you think. What does the tongue, the bit in the horse’s mouth, and the small rudder of the ship: have in common: they are small, but can dominate the very large. I have seen images of massive ships, one in particular was a 70,000 ton vessel. It’s a city, absolutely an entire floating city, thousands of people on it. And it’s moved through the sea by just a little rudder. If you go up to the captain’s quarters, and then up on the steering bridge, and there is a guy with this little thing in his hand moving that city everywhere and anywhere, pulling it into a dock, and doesn’t even touch the dock, so much control over something so big, with something so small. It’s a small bit, a small rudder, a small spark. Let me give you a few examples: in Chicago, October 8, 1871 at 8:30 P.M., a spark started in a lady named Mrs. O’Leary’s barn. And before it was over, that one spark, from supposedly a cow, in Mrs. O’Leary’s barn, burnt 17,500 buildings. 300 people were burned to death, 125,000 people were homeless, and in 1871, they estimated the damage at $400 million – one spark. I was reading that more recently a pan of rice boiled over onto a charcoal-fired stove in a small home in Korea, and before that little charcoal fire had done its damage, 3,000 buildings were totally burned to the ground within a one-square-mile area. You know it and I know it: don’t play with fire. And this is a very important warning that applies to our tongue, our words. Don’t play with it folks; don’t mess with it; don’t let your tongue have dominance; if it does it destroys. There have been churches destroyed by just the tiny tongue of one member, there have been pastors, ministers: destroyed by the tiny tongue of one member; there have been ministries destroyed; missions destroyed; families destroyed, relationships destroyed, integrities destroyed: the tongue is a fire of destruction. There is power in our words. Why? If you go back to the beginning of the book of Genesis, the very first page, it tells you. That’s the first place we see anything about talking or speaking in the Bible. Where is it? “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” God is a speaking God, and his words create reality. We’re human beings and we’re not God, yet our words have the ability to create reality. Our words are much more powerful because we’re made in the image of God.
James 3:1–5 ESV
1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2 For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. 3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 4 Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!
There is power. Why? If you go back to the beginning of the book of Genesis, the very first page, it tells you. That’s the first place we see anything about talking or speaking in the Bible. Where is it? “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” God is a speaking God, and his words create reality. We’re human beings and we’re not God, yet our words have the ability to create reality. Our words are much more powerful because we’re made in the image of God.
We’re more powerful than we think. For example, what is a self-image made out of? Your regard of yourself completely shapes the course of your life. But do you know where your self-image comes from? Words. Your self-image is the accumulation of all the verdicts, the things that have been said about you by parents and teachers, coaches and friends over the years. If you say to a child, “You’re stupid,” and you’re close to that child in some way as an adult, that word goes into the child and affects that child. It’s like toxic chemicals underneath the soil and it affects the child for years and years, and you know that because a lot of you are dealing with that or have dealt with that. See, words make or break the self-image. Your self-image is created by the words. Your word has power. Also, words make or break community. Let’s go top level. If you can’t trust the words of your government or the words of a news media or the words of a business, you have complete breakdown. If you can’t trust the truthfulness of those words, you have complete civic, economic, social breakdown. When words mean nothing, when you can’t trust the words, there is no society, there is no community because community is made out of words. Let’s go small now. If you have a relationship and you lie to that person, the person doesn’t know yet but you know there’s a distance barrier. You have to watch out what you say now and you have to be careful you don’t let the person see what you are; There’s a barrier between you. Marriage. Words make or break a marriage, and do you know why? Because words have a power that is irretrievable once you say them; words have a power. It’s:
We’re more powerful than we think. For example, what is a self-image made out of? Your regard of yourself completely shapes the course of your life. But do you know where your self-image comes from? Words. Your self-image is the accumulation of all the verdicts, the things that have been said about you by parents and teachers and friends over the years. If you say to a child, “You’re stupid,” and you’re close to that child in some way as an adult, that word goes into the child and affects that child. It’s like toxic chemicals underneath the soil and it affects the child for years and years, and you know that because a lot of you are dealing with that. See, words make or break the self-image. Your self-image is created by the words. Your word has power. Also, words make or break community. Community. Let’s go top level. If you can’t trust the words of your government or the words of a news media or the words of a business, you have complete breakdown. If you can’t trust the truthfulness of those words, you have complete civic, economic, social breakdown. When words mean nothing, when you can’t trust the words, there is no society, there is no community because community is made out of words.
When words mean nothing, when you can’t trust the words, there is no society, there is no community because community is made out of words.
If you say to a child, “You’re stupid,” and you’re close to that child in some way as an adult, that word goes into the child and affects that child. It’s like toxic chemicals underneath the soil and it affects the child for years and years, and you know that because a lot of you are dealing with that. See, words make or break the self-image. Your self-image is created by the words. Your word has power. Also, words make or break community. Community. Let’s go top level. If you can’t trust the words of your government or the words of a news media or the words of a business, you have complete breakdown. If you can’t trust the truthfulness of those words, you have complete civic, economic, social breakdown. If you want to see a little bit of an example of that where nobody can trust the words of anybody else, if you want to see an example of that up close, go rent the movie The Lives of Others about the last days of East Germany under communism. Nobody trusted anybody else because their words meant nothing. When words mean nothing, when you can’t trust the words, there is no society, there is no community because community is made out of words. Let’s go small. If you have a relationship and you lie to that person, the person doesn’t know yet but you know there’s a distance barrier. You have to watch out what you say now and you have to be careful you don’t let the person see what you … There’s a barrier between you. Marriage. Words make or break a marriage, and do you know why? Because words have a power that is irretrievable once you say them; words have a power. If you take a sword and stick it into somebody’s flesh and then pull it out and say, “I’m sorry,” guess what? The sword is out, but the wound isn’t gone. If you make cutting remarks to your spouse and then say, “I’m sorry,” guess what? The harm isn’t gone because words have a power. Proverbs says life and death are in the power of the tongue! Do you know how many murders, suicides, and wars have been caused by careless words? Careless words! Jesus wasn’t exaggerating! Judgment day has already started on your careless words, do you know that? Let’s wrap up this first point on this power of the words. This is the reason you’ll never see anywhere in the Bible, no author in the Bible will every say anything like this, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” You know, one of the most ironic things is whenever I hear a child sing that song. The irony, of course, is you know that child is completely dominated by the words that were sung to the child. That’s stupid to say sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me. That’s crazy because frankly, here’s what the Bible teaches: sticks and stones may break your bones but words can go places sticks and stones can never go! Right into your soul, right into your self-regard, right into the center of your relationships. It can destroy by creating terrible new realities. Somebody commenting on what the Bible says about words says, “What is done to you is of very little account compared to what is done in you. Words can destroy confidence, morale, relationships, marriages, and families in a way sticks and stones can’t. Words cause murders and suicides and wars by the score. Even a single word can do this. Words are sparks; they are bombs.” So, the power of words. 2The poison of words However, it’s not all words obviously that are bad. Some words are what here in verse 8 in call poisonous. See, he says the tongue “… is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” Well, what kinds of words are poisonous? Proverbs says life and death are in the power of the tongue. The tongue can kill and it can poison but it can also give life, so what kinds of the words are poisonous words? What kinds of words bring about this destruction? You’re not going to find the answer in the chapter. Chapter 3 is where James talks about words and speech at greatest length, but he doesn’t actually mention what kinds of words are the poisonous words. You have to go back a little bit and go to chapter 5. We’re going through the book of James pretty quickly and so when we get to chapter 5, you’re not going to hear me talking about these two places. But in 5:9 and 12, James lays out what the two basic categories of the poisonous words are. Words are poisonous and they destroy and bring death if they’re untruthful or unloving. Now let’s take just a couple minutes to talk about that. Untruthful, unloving words are poison. Actually it’s in where he talks about that it’s absolutely critical to tell the truth. He actually quotes his older brother Jesus. (Remember, James is the younger brother of Jesus Christ; he’s a son of Joseph and Mary.) James, in 5:12, says, “Don’t swear, but let your ‘yes’ be yes and let your ‘no’ be no.” That’s quoting Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount, because Jesus says, “Don’t swear by heaven or earth or by Jerusalem, but let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no.” What is that? Here’s what he’s saying. You know how people say, “Well, when you go into court and you swear on a stack of Bibles, ‘I promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help me God,’ now we have to tell the truth.” Do you know what Jesus is saying? If you’re a Christian, you’re always under oath. Everywhere you go, everybody you talk to, every “yes” and every “no” ought to be as truthful as if you just swore on a stack of Bibles. You shouldn’t need to ever go under oath in order to tell the truth. You’re always under oath. That’s . Then in he says, “Don’t grumble against each other …” The word grumble, by the way, simply means to roll the eyes as you speak. Oh my gosh. New York City! Listen. Let me not take long on this, but just to say those two verses in chapter 5 summarize everything the Bible says about poisonous words. Poisonous words are untruthful and unloving. Or Paul puts it positively in when he says, “Speak the truth in love.” Meditate with me for a second. Unless you’re speaking the truth in love, unless your words are characterized by truthfulness and love at the same time, your words are poison. You’re destroying people. Now think about this with me. First of all, truth. What’s wrong with telling a lie? Why are untruthful words right or wrong? One Christian writer put it something like, “There are lies of gossip that make haters out of us. There are lies of advertising that make money out of us. There are lies of politicians that make pawns out of us. Lies always demean, always disempower, always distort people’s view of reality so they cannot live wisely.” Do you hear that? When you lie, you’re creating a reality for that person, but it’s not real reality. You’re not giving them the facts about things. You’re holding back something they need to know, some information they need to know, so they’re flying blind. So whenever you lie, you’re exploiting people. You’re making haters out of them. You’re making pawns out of them. You’re making money out of them, or whatever. An untruthful tongue creates an illusion around people and disempowers them, right? That’s bad, right? But guess what? There’s another way for you to have an untruthful tongue, and that is through cowardly silence. If you know something a person ought to know and out of cowardice, because you’re afraid, you don’t tell them, you are actually keeping them in a distorted reality by not saying anything. See, an untruthful tongue can be untruthful through lying and through just shutting up when you really ought to open your mouth. When you’re afraid to tell people something they really need to know because you don’t want to hurt their feelings, or you don’t want them to get mad at you or something like that, you’re disempowering them. You’re withholding the truth from them. So you can withhold the truth from somebody as much by lying as by shutting up in a cowardly way. That’s untruthful speech; that’s very poisonous. We know about that, but then there’s also unloving speech. Now, a lot of people feel in the Christian community (here I’m especially talking to Christians) that if I tell the truth and I tell people, “This is what the Bible says. This is the truth. This is what God says. It doesn’t matter so much how I say it; what matters is I’m telling the truth …” But you’re supposed to speak the truth in love, and if you speak the truth in a way that’s not loving, it’s not really caring about the truth. In , there’s this curious verse that says, “… a gentle tongue can break a bone.” It’s kind of a strange image, isn’t it? A gentle tongue can break a bone. What is Proverbs saying there? One commentator tries to explain this beautifully when he said something like, “Breaking a bone means gentle words are the most able to break down the most hardened resistance to an idea a person may possess.” Did you catch that? Look … If you’re trying to tell somebody something they don’t want to hear, if you’re trying to tell them the truth, if you’re harsh, if you lash out at them, what are you doing? You’re actually enhancing their resistance to the truth. They’re going to get their backs up, aren’t they? Therefore, you don’t really care about the truth; you want to punish. You don’t really care whether the person believes you or not. You’re not standing up for the truth; you’re just hurting the person. What the Proverbs is saying, what the commentator is saying is, the best way of breaking down a person’s resistance to the truth is to be kind! It’s telling the truth. Be gentle; be humble; show love; show respect because when you hear somebody telling you something you don’t want to hear, you want to believe they don’t like you. Then you can dismiss them. “Ahh, I know him. Consider the source.” But when a person loves you and is humble and is gracious in the way they tell you the truth, it breaks down your resistance. So here’s the irony. If you’re not loving, if you’re not kind and gracious and timely in the way you speak to people … Find the right time. I’ve had so many people tell the truth at the worst possible time and when the person doesn’t believe, he says, “Well, I did my job.” No you didn’t! Unloving truthful words aren’t really, in the end, committed to truth. And so-called loving, cowardly silence isn’t committed to truth. But also, you see, love without truth is a lie. Truth without love is not really committed to the truth, so truth without love isn’t really truth, and love without truth isn’t really love! Only when your words are both truthful and loving at the same time is your tongue life-giving. Think about it. And by the way … listen … when I say lies, don’t forget exaggeration, strategic omission, and spin, all of which are technically factual but designed to misrepresent. Don’t do that either. When we do that, we are spreading poison. If this is the case, if words that are not truthful and loving at the same time, apt and timely and wise and gracious and direct and honest at once, you’re destroying self images, relationships, marriages, and society because the word is a bomb. Your words are like sparks.
Let’s go small. If you have a relationship and you lie to that person, the person doesn’t know yet but you know there’s a distance barrier. You have to watch out what you say now and you have to be careful you don’t let the person see what you are; There’s a barrier between you. Marriage. Words make or break a marriage, and do you know why? Because words have a power that is irretrievable once you say them; words have a power.
If you want to see a little bit of an example of that where nobody can trust the words of anybody else, if you want to see an example of that up close, go rent the movie The Lives of Others about the last days of East Germany under communism. Nobody trusted anybody else because their words meant nothing. When words mean nothing, when you can’t trust the words, there is no society, there is no community because community is made out of words. Let’s go small. If you have a relationship and you lie to that person, the person doesn’t know yet but you know there’s a distance barrier. You have to watch out what you say now and you have to be careful you don’t let the person see what you … There’s a barrier between you. Marriage. Words make or break a marriage, and do you know why? Because words have a power that is irretrievable once you say them; words have a power. If you take a sword and stick it into somebody’s flesh and then pull it out and say, “I’m sorry,” guess what? The sword is out, but the wound isn’t gone. If you make cutting remarks to your spouse and then say, “I’m sorry,” guess what? The harm isn’t gone because words have a power. Proverbs says life and death are in the power of the tongue! Do you know how many murders, suicides, and wars have been caused by careless words? Careless words! Jesus wasn’t exaggerating! Judgment day has already started on your careless words, do you know that? Let’s wrap up this first point on this power of the words. This is the reason you’ll never see anywhere in the Bible, no author in the Bible will every say anything like this, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” You know, one of the most ironic things is whenever I hear a child sing that song. The irony, of course, is you know that child is completely dominated by the words that were sung to the child. That’s stupid to say sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me. That’s crazy because frankly, here’s what the Bible teaches: sticks and stones may break your bones but words can go places sticks and stones can never go! Right into your soul, right into your self-regard, right into the center of your relationships. It can destroy by creating terrible new realities. Somebody commenting on what the Bible says about words says, “What is done to you is of very little account compared to what is done in you. Words can destroy confidence, morale, relationships, marriages, and families in a way sticks and stones can’t. Words cause murders and suicides and wars by the score. Even a single word can do this. Words are sparks; they are bombs.” So, the power of words. 2The poison of words However, it’s not all words obviously that are bad. Some words are what here in verse 8 in call poisonous. See, he says the tongue “… is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” Well, what kinds of words are poisonous? Proverbs says life and death are in the power of the tongue. The tongue can kill and it can poison but it can also give life, so what kinds of the words are poisonous words? What kinds of words bring about this destruction? You’re not going to find the answer in the chapter. Chapter 3 is where James talks about words and speech at greatest length, but he doesn’t actually mention what kinds of words are the poisonous words. You have to go back a little bit and go to chapter 5. We’re going through the book of James pretty quickly and so when we get to chapter 5, you’re not going to hear me talking about these two places. But in 5:9 and 12, James lays out what the two basic categories of the poisonous words are. Words are poisonous and they destroy and bring death if they’re untruthful or unloving. Now let’s take just a couple minutes to talk about that. Untruthful, unloving words are poison. Actually it’s in where he talks about that it’s absolutely critical to tell the truth. He actually quotes his older brother Jesus. (Remember, James is the younger brother of Jesus Christ; he’s a son of Joseph and Mary.) James, in 5:12, says, “Don’t swear, but let your ‘yes’ be yes and let your ‘no’ be no.” That’s quoting Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount, because Jesus says, “Don’t swear by heaven or earth or by Jerusalem, but let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no.” What is that? Here’s what he’s saying. You know how people say, “Well, when you go into court and you swear on a stack of Bibles, ‘I promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help me God,’ now we have to tell the truth.” Do you know what Jesus is saying? If you’re a Christian, you’re always under oath. Everywhere you go, everybody you talk to, every “yes” and every “no” ought to be as truthful as if you just swore on a stack of Bibles. You shouldn’t need to ever go under oath in order to tell the truth. You’re always under oath. That’s . Then in he says, “Don’t grumble against each other …” The word grumble, by the way, simply means to roll the eyes as you speak. Oh my gosh. New York City! Listen. Let me not take long on this, but just to say those two verses in chapter 5 summarize everything the Bible says about poisonous words. Poisonous words are untruthful and unloving. Or Paul puts it positively in when he says, “Speak the truth in love.” Meditate with me for a second. Unless you’re speaking the truth in love, unless your words are characterized by truthfulness and love at the same time, your words are poison. You’re destroying people. Now think about this with me. First of all, truth. What’s wrong with telling a lie? Why are untruthful words right or wrong? One Christian writer put it something like, “There are lies of gossip that make haters out of us. There are lies of advertising that make money out of us. There are lies of politicians that make pawns out of us. Lies always demean, always disempower, always distort people’s view of reality so they cannot live wisely.” Do you hear that? When you lie, you’re creating a reality for that person, but it’s not real reality. You’re not giving them the facts about things. You’re holding back something they need to know, some information they need to know, so they’re flying blind. So whenever you lie, you’re exploiting people. You’re making haters out of them. You’re making pawns out of them. You’re making money out of them, or whatever. An untruthful tongue creates an illusion around people and disempowers them, right? That’s bad, right? But guess what? There’s another way for you to have an untruthful tongue, and that is through cowardly silence. If you know something a person ought to know and out of cowardice, because you’re afraid, you don’t tell them, you are actually keeping them in a distorted reality by not saying anything. See, an untruthful tongue can be untruthful through lying and through just shutting up when you really ought to open your mouth. When you’re afraid to tell people something they really need to know because you don’t want to hurt their feelings, or you don’t want them to get mad at you or something like that, you’re disempowering them. You’re withholding the truth from them. So you can withhold the truth from somebody as much by lying as by shutting up in a cowardly way. That’s untruthful speech; that’s very poisonous. We know about that, but then there’s also unloving speech. Now, a lot of people feel in the Christian community (here I’m especially talking to Christians) that if I tell the truth and I tell people, “This is what the Bible says. This is the truth. This is what God says. It doesn’t matter so much how I say it; what matters is I’m telling the truth …” But you’re supposed to speak the truth in love, and if you speak the truth in a way that’s not loving, it’s not really caring about the truth. In , there’s this curious verse that says, “… a gentle tongue can break a bone.” It’s kind of a strange image, isn’t it? A gentle tongue can break a bone. What is Proverbs saying there? One commentator tries to explain this beautifully when he said something like, “Breaking a bone means gentle words are the most able to break down the most hardened resistance to an idea a person may possess.” Did you catch that? Look … If you’re trying to tell somebody something they don’t want to hear, if you’re trying to tell them the truth, if you’re harsh, if you lash out at them, what are you doing? You’re actually enhancing their resistance to the truth. They’re going to get their backs up, aren’t they? Therefore, you don’t really care about the truth; you want to punish. You don’t really care whether the person believes you or not. You’re not standing up for the truth; you’re just hurting the person. What the Proverbs is saying, what the commentator is saying is, the best way of breaking down a person’s resistance to the truth is to be kind! It’s telling the truth. Be gentle; be humble; show love; show respect because when you hear somebody telling you something you don’t want to hear, you want to believe they don’t like you. Then you can dismiss them. “Ahh, I know him. Consider the source.” But when a person loves you and is humble and is gracious in the way they tell you the truth, it breaks down your resistance. So here’s the irony. If you’re not loving, if you’re not kind and gracious and timely in the way you speak to people … Find the right time. I’ve had so many people tell the truth at the worst possible time and when the person doesn’t believe, he says, “Well, I did my job.” No you didn’t! Unloving truthful words aren’t really, in the end, committed to truth. And so-called loving, cowardly silence isn’t committed to truth. But also, you see, love without truth is a lie. Truth without love is not really committed to the truth, so truth without love isn’t really truth, and love without truth isn’t really love! Only when your words are both truthful and loving at the same time is your tongue life-giving. Think about it. And by the way … listen … when I say lies, don’t forget exaggeration, strategic omission, and spin, all of which are technically factual but designed to misrepresent. Don’t do that either. When we do that, we are spreading poison. If this is the case, if words that are not truthful and loving at the same time, apt and timely and wise and gracious and direct and honest at once, you’re destroying self images, relationships, marriages, and society because the word is a bomb. Your words are like sparks.
The Importance of Every Word
Proverbs 12:18 ESV
18 There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
Let’s go small. If you have a relationship and you lie to that person, the person doesn’t know yet but you know there’s a distance barrier. You have to watch out what you say now and you have to be careful you don’t let the person see what you … There’s a barrier between you. Marriage. Words make or break a marriage, and do you know why? Because words have a power that is irretrievable once you say them; words have a power. If you take a sword and stick it into somebody’s flesh and then pull it out and say, “I’m sorry,” guess what? The sword is out, but the wound isn’t gone. If you make cutting remarks to your spouse and then say, “I’m sorry,” guess what? The harm isn’t gone because words have a power. Proverbs says life and death are in the power of the tongue! Do you know how many murders, suicides, and wars have been caused by careless words? Careless words! Jesus wasn’t exaggerating! Judgment day has already started on your careless words, do you know that? Let’s wrap up this first point on this power of the words. This is the reason you’ll never see anywhere in the Bible, no author in the Bible will every say anything like this, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” You know, one of the most ironic things is whenever I hear a child sing that song. The irony, of course, is you know that child is completely dominated by the words that were sung to the child. That’s stupid to say sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me. That’s crazy because frankly, here’s what the Bible teaches: sticks and stones may break your bones but words can go places sticks and stones can never go! Right into your soul, right into your self-regard, right into the center of your relationships. It can destroy by creating terrible new realities. Somebody commenting on what the Bible says about words says, “What is done to you is of very little account compared to what is done in you. Words can destroy confidence, morale, relationships, marriages, and families in a way sticks and stones can’t. Words cause murders and suicides and wars by the score. Even a single word can do this. Words are sparks; they are bombs.” So, the power of words. 2The poison of words However, it’s not all words obviously that are bad. Some words are what here in verse 8 in call poisonous. See, he says the tongue “… is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” Well, what kinds of words are poisonous? Proverbs says life and death are in the power of the tongue. The tongue can kill and it can poison but it can also give life, so what kinds of the words are poisonous words? What kinds of words bring about this destruction? You’re not going to find the answer in the chapter. Chapter 3 is where James talks about words and speech at greatest length, but he doesn’t actually mention what kinds of words are the poisonous words. You have to go back a little bit and go to chapter 5. We’re going through the book of James pretty quickly and so when we get to chapter 5, you’re not going to hear me talking about these two places. But in 5:9 and 12, James lays out what the two basic categories of the poisonous words are. Words are poisonous and they destroy and bring death if they’re untruthful or unloving. Now let’s take just a couple minutes to talk about that. Untruthful, unloving words are poison. Actually it’s in where he talks about that it’s absolutely critical to tell the truth. He actually quotes his older brother Jesus. (Remember, James is the younger brother of Jesus Christ; he’s a son of Joseph and Mary.) James, in 5:12, says, “Don’t swear, but let your ‘yes’ be yes and let your ‘no’ be no.” That’s quoting Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount, because Jesus says, “Don’t swear by heaven or earth or by Jerusalem, but let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no.” What is that? Here’s what he’s saying. You know how people say, “Well, when you go into court and you swear on a stack of Bibles, ‘I promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help me God,’ now we have to tell the truth.” Do you know what Jesus is saying? If you’re a Christian, you’re always under oath. Everywhere you go, everybody you talk to, every “yes” and every “no” ought to be as truthful as if you just swore on a stack of Bibles. You shouldn’t need to ever go under oath in order to tell the truth. You’re always under oath. That’s . Then in he says, “Don’t grumble against each other …” The word grumble, by the way, simply means to roll the eyes as you speak. Oh my gosh. New York City! Listen. Let me not take long on this, but just to say those two verses in chapter 5 summarize everything the Bible says about poisonous words. Poisonous words are untruthful and unloving. Or Paul puts it positively in when he says, “Speak the truth in love.” Meditate with me for a second. Unless you’re speaking the truth in love, unless your words are characterized by truthfulness and love at the same time, your words are poison. You’re destroying people. Now think about this with me. First of all, truth. What’s wrong with telling a lie? Why are untruthful words right or wrong? One Christian writer put it something like, “There are lies of gossip that make haters out of us. There are lies of advertising that make money out of us. There are lies of politicians that make pawns out of us. Lies always demean, always disempower, always distort people’s view of reality so they cannot live wisely.” Do you hear that? When you lie, you’re creating a reality for that person, but it’s not real reality. You’re not giving them the facts about things. You’re holding back something they need to know, some information they need to know, so they’re flying blind. So whenever you lie, you’re exploiting people. You’re making haters out of them. You’re making pawns out of them. You’re making money out of them, or whatever. An untruthful tongue creates an illusion around people and disempowers them, right? That’s bad, right? But guess what? There’s another way for you to have an untruthful tongue, and that is through cowardly silence. If you know something a person ought to know and out of cowardice, because you’re afraid, you don’t tell them, you are actually keeping them in a distorted reality by not saying anything. See, an untruthful tongue can be untruthful through lying and through just shutting up when you really ought to open your mouth. When you’re afraid to tell people something they really need to know because you don’t want to hurt their feelings, or you don’t want them to get mad at you or something like that, you’re disempowering them. You’re withholding the truth from them. So you can withhold the truth from somebody as much by lying as by shutting up in a cowardly way. That’s untruthful speech; that’s very poisonous. We know about that, but then there’s also unloving speech. Now, a lot of people feel in the Christian community (here I’m especially talking to Christians) that if I tell the truth and I tell people, “This is what the Bible says. This is the truth. This is what God says. It doesn’t matter so much how I say it; what matters is I’m telling the truth …” But you’re supposed to speak the truth in love, and if you speak the truth in a way that’s not loving, it’s not really caring about the truth. In , there’s this curious verse that says, “… a gentle tongue can break a bone.” It’s kind of a strange image, isn’t it? A gentle tongue can break a bone. What is Proverbs saying there? One commentator tries to explain this beautifully when he said something like, “Breaking a bone means gentle words are the most able to break down the most hardened resistance to an idea a person may possess.” Did you catch that? Look … If you’re trying to tell somebody something they don’t want to hear, if you’re trying to tell them the truth, if you’re harsh, if you lash out at them, what are you doing? You’re actually enhancing their resistance to the truth. They’re going to get their backs up, aren’t they? Therefore, you don’t really care about the truth; you want to punish. You don’t really care whether the person believes you or not. You’re not standing up for the truth; you’re just hurting the person. What the Proverbs is saying, what the commentator is saying is, the best way of breaking down a person’s resistance to the truth is to be kind! It’s telling the truth. Be gentle; be humble; show love; show respect because when you hear somebody telling you something you don’t want to hear, you want to believe they don’t like you. Then you can dismiss them. “Ahh, I know him. Consider the source.” But when a person loves you and is humble and is gracious in the way they tell you the truth, it breaks down your resistance. So here’s the irony. If you’re not loving, if you’re not kind and gracious and timely in the way you speak to people … Find the right time. I’ve had so many people tell the truth at the worst possible time and when the person doesn’t believe, he says, “Well, I did my job.” No you didn’t! Unloving truthful words aren’t really, in the end, committed to truth. And so-called loving, cowardly silence isn’t committed to truth. But also, you see, love without truth is a lie. Truth without love is not really committed to the truth, so truth without love isn’t really truth, and love without truth isn’t really love! Only when your words are both truthful and loving at the same time is your tongue life-giving. Think about it. And by the way … listen … when I say lies, don’t forget exaggeration, strategic omission, and spin, all of which are technically factual but designed to misrepresent. Don’t do that either. When we do that, we are spreading poison. If this is the case, if words that are not truthful and loving at the same time, apt and timely and wise and gracious and direct and honest at once, you’re destroying self images, relationships, marriages, and society because the word is a bomb. Your words are like sparks.
If you take a sword and stick it into somebody’s flesh and then pull it out and say, “I’m sorry,” guess what? The sword is out, but the wound isn’t gone. If you make cutting remarks to your spouse and then say, “I’m sorry,” guess what? The harm isn’t gone because words have a power.
If you take a sword and stick it into somebody’s flesh and then pull it out and say, “I’m sorry,” guess what? The sword is out, but the wound isn’t gone. If you make cutting remarks to your spouse and then say, “I’m sorry,” guess what? The harm isn’t gone because words have a power. says life and death are in the power of the tongue! Do you know how many murders, suicides, and wars have been caused by careless words? Careless words! Jesus wasn’t exaggerating! Judgment day has already started on your careless words, do you know that? Let’s wrap up this first point on this power of the words. This is the reason you’ll never see anywhere in the Bible, no author in the Bible will every say anything like this, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” That’s stupid to say sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me. That’s crazy because frankly, here’s what the Bible teaches: sticks and stones may break your bones but words can go places sticks and stones can never go! Right into your soul, right into your self-regard, right into the center of your relationships. It can destroy by creating terrible new realities. Sticks and stones may break your bones, but James says: words can burn your down. Somebody commenting on what the Bible says about words says, “What is done to you is of very little account compared to what is done in you. Words can destroy confidence, morale, relationships, marriages, and families in a way sticks and stones can’t. Words cause murders and suicides and wars by the score. Even a single word can do this. Words are sparks; they are bombs.” So, we see the power of words, the significance of words, and I should clarify here: not all words are bad words.
Let’s go small. If you have a relationship and you lie to that person, the person doesn’t know yet but you know there’s a distance barrier. You have to watch out what you say now and you have to be careful you don’t let the person see what you … There’s a barrier between you. Marriage. Words make or break a marriage, and do you know why? Because words have a power that is irretrievable once you say them; words have a power. If you take a sword and stick it into somebody’s flesh and then pull it out and say, “I’m sorry,” guess what? The sword is out, but the wound isn’t gone. If you make cutting remarks to your spouse and then say, “I’m sorry,” guess what? The harm isn’t gone because words have a power. Proverbs says life and death are in the power of the tongue! Do you know how many murders, suicides, and wars have been caused by careless words? Careless words! Jesus wasn’t exaggerating! Judgment day has already started on your careless words, do you know that? Let’s wrap up this first point on this power of the words. This is the reason you’ll never see anywhere in the Bible, no author in the Bible will every say anything like this, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” You know, one of the most ironic things is whenever I hear a child sing that song. The irony, of course, is you know that child is completely dominated by the words that were sung to the child. That’s stupid to say sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me. That’s crazy because frankly, here’s what the Bible teaches: sticks and stones may break your bones but words can go places sticks and stones can never go! Right into your soul, right into your self-regard, right into the center of your relationships. It can destroy by creating terrible new realities. Somebody commenting on what the Bible says about words says, “What is done to you is of very little account compared to what is done in you. Words can destroy confidence, morale, relationships, marriages, and families in a way sticks and stones can’t. Words cause murders and suicides and wars by the score. Even a single word can do this. Words are sparks; they are bombs.” So, the power of words. 2The poison of words However, it’s not all words obviously that are bad. Some words are what here in verse 8 in call poisonous. See, he says the tongue “… is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” Well, what kinds of words are poisonous? Proverbs says life and death are in the power of the tongue. The tongue can kill and it can poison but it can also give life, so what kinds of the words are poisonous words? What kinds of words bring about this destruction? You’re not going to find the answer in the chapter. Chapter 3 is where James talks about words and speech at greatest length, but he doesn’t actually mention what kinds of words are the poisonous words. You have to go back a little bit and go to chapter 5. We’re going through the book of James pretty quickly and so when we get to chapter 5, you’re not going to hear me talking about these two places. But in 5:9 and 12, James lays out what the two basic categories of the poisonous words are. Words are poisonous and they destroy and bring death if they’re untruthful or unloving. Now let’s take just a couple minutes to talk about that. Untruthful, unloving words are poison. Actually it’s in where he talks about that it’s absolutely critical to tell the truth. He actually quotes his older brother Jesus. (Remember, James is the younger brother of Jesus Christ; he’s a son of Joseph and Mary.) James, in 5:12, says, “Don’t swear, but let your ‘yes’ be yes and let your ‘no’ be no.” That’s quoting Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount, because Jesus says, “Don’t swear by heaven or earth or by Jerusalem, but let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no.” What is that? Here’s what he’s saying. You know how people say, “Well, when you go into court and you swear on a stack of Bibles, ‘I promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help me God,’ now we have to tell the truth.” Do you know what Jesus is saying? If you’re a Christian, you’re always under oath. Everywhere you go, everybody you talk to, every “yes” and every “no” ought to be as truthful as if you just swore on a stack of Bibles. You shouldn’t need to ever go under oath in order to tell the truth. You’re always under oath. That’s . Then in he says, “Don’t grumble against each other …” The word grumble, by the way, simply means to roll the eyes as you speak. Oh my gosh. New York City! Listen. Let me not take long on this, but just to say those two verses in chapter 5 summarize everything the Bible says about poisonous words. Poisonous words are untruthful and unloving. Or Paul puts it positively in when he says, “Speak the truth in love.” Meditate with me for a second. Unless you’re speaking the truth in love, unless your words are characterized by truthfulness and love at the same time, your words are poison. You’re destroying people. Now think about this with me. First of all, truth. What’s wrong with telling a lie? Why are untruthful words right or wrong? One Christian writer put it something like, “There are lies of gossip that make haters out of us. There are lies of advertising that make money out of us. There are lies of politicians that make pawns out of us. Lies always demean, always disempower, always distort people’s view of reality so they cannot live wisely.” Do you hear that? When you lie, you’re creating a reality for that person, but it’s not real reality. You’re not giving them the facts about things. You’re holding back something they need to know, some information they need to know, so they’re flying blind. So whenever you lie, you’re exploiting people. You’re making haters out of them. You’re making pawns out of them. You’re making money out of them, or whatever. An untruthful tongue creates an illusion around people and disempowers them, right? That’s bad, right? But guess what? There’s another way for you to have an untruthful tongue, and that is through cowardly silence. If you know something a person ought to know and out of cowardice, because you’re afraid, you don’t tell them, you are actually keeping them in a distorted reality by not saying anything. See, an untruthful tongue can be untruthful through lying and through just shutting up when you really ought to open your mouth. When you’re afraid to tell people something they really need to know because you don’t want to hurt their feelings, or you don’t want them to get mad at you or something like that, you’re disempowering them. You’re withholding the truth from them. So you can withhold the truth from somebody as much by lying as by shutting up in a cowardly way. That’s untruthful speech; that’s very poisonous. We know about that, but then there’s also unloving speech. Now, a lot of people feel in the Christian community (here I’m especially talking to Christians) that if I tell the truth and I tell people, “This is what the Bible says. This is the truth. This is what God says. It doesn’t matter so much how I say it; what matters is I’m telling the truth …” But you’re supposed to speak the truth in love, and if you speak the truth in a way that’s not loving, it’s not really caring about the truth. In , there’s this curious verse that says, “… a gentle tongue can break a bone.” It’s kind of a strange image, isn’t it? A gentle tongue can break a bone. What is Proverbs saying there? One commentator tries to explain this beautifully when he said something like, “Breaking a bone means gentle words are the most able to break down the most hardened resistance to an idea a person may possess.” Did you catch that? Look … If you’re trying to tell somebody something they don’t want to hear, if you’re trying to tell them the truth, if you’re harsh, if you lash out at them, what are you doing? You’re actually enhancing their resistance to the truth. They’re going to get their backs up, aren’t they? Therefore, you don’t really care about the truth; you want to punish. You don’t really care whether the person believes you or not. You’re not standing up for the truth; you’re just hurting the person. What the Proverbs is saying, what the commentator is saying is, the best way of breaking down a person’s resistance to the truth is to be kind! It’s telling the truth. Be gentle; be humble; show love; show respect because when you hear somebody telling you something you don’t want to hear, you want to believe they don’t like you. Then you can dismiss them. “Ahh, I know him. Consider the source.” But when a person loves you and is humble and is gracious in the way they tell you the truth, it breaks down your resistance. So here’s the irony. If you’re not loving, if you’re not kind and gracious and timely in the way you speak to people … Find the right time. I’ve had so many people tell the truth at the worst possible time and when the person doesn’t believe, he says, “Well, I did my job.” No you didn’t! Unloving truthful words aren’t really, in the end, committed to truth. And so-called loving, cowardly silence isn’t committed to truth. But also, you see, love without truth is a lie. Truth without love is not really committed to the truth, so truth without love isn’t really truth, and love without truth isn’t really love! Only when your words are both truthful and loving at the same time is your tongue life-giving. Think about it. And by the way … listen … when I say lies, don’t forget exaggeration, strategic omission, and spin, all of which are technically factual but designed to misrepresent. Don’t do that either. When we do that, we are spreading poison. If this is the case, if words that are not truthful and loving at the same time, apt and timely and wise and gracious and direct and honest at once, you’re destroying self images, relationships, marriages, and society because the word is a bomb. Your words are like sparks.
Verses 1–5 were all about how powerful words are. Verse 1 says teachers will be judged more harshly. Well, what’s that got to do with the subject? Everything. It’s saying the more words you use, the more severely you’ll be judged, and that shows God takes words very, very seriously. Why does Jesus say in Matthew 12 this amazing statement which still makes me tremble, “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.” Aw, gee … Every careless word! Why? Proverbs 18:21 says, “Life and death are in the power of the tongue.” Look at these three metaphors at the beginning of the chapter. “A little bit in the mouth of the horse turns the whole horse.” “A little rudder turns the whole huge ship.” “A little spark can start a forest fire that destroys thousands of lives and millions of acres.” What are all these metaphors getting across? The power of your speech. The power of your words. Your words are much more powerful than you think. Why? If you go back to the beginning of the book of Genesis, the very first page, it tells you. That’s the first place we see anything about talking or speaking in the Bible. Where is it? “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” God is a speaking God, and his words create reality. We’re human beings and we’re not God, yet our words have the ability to create reality. Our words are much more powerful because we’re made in the image of God. We’re more powerful than we think. For example, what is a self-image made out of? Your regard of yourself completely shapes the course of your life. But do you know where your self-image comes from? Words. Your self-image is the accumulation of all the verdicts, the things that have been said about you by parents and teachers and friends over the years. If you say to a child, “You’re stupid,” and you’re close to that child in some way as an adult, that word goes into the child and affects that child. It’s like toxic chemicals underneath the soil and it affects the child for years and years, and you know that because a lot of you are dealing with that. See, words make or break the self-image. Your self-image is created by the words. Your word has power. Also, words make or break community. Community. Let’s go top level. If you can’t trust the words of your government or the words of a news media or the words of a business, you have complete breakdown. If you can’t trust the truthfulness of those words, you have complete civic, economic, social breakdown. If you want to see a little bit of an example of that where nobody can trust the words of anybody else, if you want to see an example of that up close, go rent the movie The Lives of Others about the last days of East Germany under communism. Nobody trusted anybody else because their words meant nothing. When words mean nothing, when you can’t trust the words, there is no society, there is no community because community is made out of words. Let’s go small. If you have a relationship and you lie to that person, the person doesn’t know yet but you know there’s a distance barrier. You have to watch out what you say now and you have to be careful you don’t let the person see what you … There’s a barrier between you. Marriage. Words make or break a marriage, and do you know why? Because words have a power that is irretrievable once you say them; words have a power. If you take a sword and stick it into somebody’s flesh and then pull it out and say, “I’m sorry,” guess what? The sword is out, but the wound isn’t gone. If you make cutting remarks to your spouse and then say, “I’m sorry,” guess what? The harm isn’t gone because words have a power. Proverbs says life and death are in the power of the tongue! Do you know how many murders, suicides, and wars have been caused by careless words? Careless words! Jesus wasn’t exaggerating! Judgment day has already started on your careless words, do you know that? Let’s wrap up this first point on this power of the words. This is the reason you’ll never see anywhere in the Bible, no author in the Bible will every say anything like this, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” You know, one of the most ironic things is whenever I hear a child sing that song. The irony, of course, is you know that child is completely dominated by the words that were sung to the child. That’s stupid to say sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me. That’s crazy because frankly, here’s what the Bible teaches: sticks and stones may break your bones but words can go places sticks and stones can never go! Right into your soul, right into your self-regard, right into the center of your relationships. It can destroy by creating terrible new realities. Somebody commenting on what the Bible says about words says, “What is done to you is of very little account compared to what is done in you. Words can destroy confidence, morale, relationships, marriages, and families in a way sticks and stones can’t. Words cause murders and suicides and wars by the score. Even a single word can do this. Words are sparks; they are bombs.” So, the power of words. 2The poison of words However, it’s not all words obviously that are bad. Some words are what here in verse 8 in James 3 call poisonous. See, he says the tongue “… is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” Well, what kinds of words are poisonous? Proverbs says life and death are in the power of the tongue. The tongue can kill and it can poison but it can also give life, so what kinds of the words are poisonous words? What kinds of words bring about this destruction? You’re not going to find the answer in the chapter. Chapter 3 is where James talks about words and speech at greatest length, but he doesn’t actually mention what kinds of words are the poisonous words. You have to go back a little bit and go to chapter 5. We’re going through the book of James pretty quickly and so when we get to chapter 5, you’re not going to hear me talking about these two places. But in 5:9 and 12, James lays out what the two basic categories of the poisonous words are. Words are poisonous and they destroy and bring death if they’re untruthful or unloving. Now let’s take just a couple minutes to talk about that. Untruthful, unloving words are poison. Actually it’s in James 5:12 where he talks about that it’s absolutely critical to tell the truth. He actually quotes his older brother Jesus. (Remember, James is the younger brother of Jesus Christ; he’s a son of Joseph and Mary.) James, in 5:12, says, “Don’t swear, but let your ‘yes’ be yes and let your ‘no’ be no.” That’s quoting Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount, because Jesus says, “Don’t swear by heaven or earth or by Jerusalem, but let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no.” What is that? Here’s what he’s saying. You know how people say, “Well, when you go into court and you swear on a stack of Bibles, ‘I promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help me God,’ now we have to tell the truth.” Do you know what Jesus is saying? If you’re a Christian, you’re always under oath. Everywhere you go, everybody you talk to, every “yes” and every “no” ought to be as truthful as if you just swore on a stack of Bibles. You shouldn’t need to ever go under oath in order to tell the truth. You’re always under oath. That’s James 5:12. Then in James 5:9 he says, “Don’t grumble against each other …” The word grumble, by the way, simply means to roll the eyes as you speak. Oh my gosh. New York City! Listen. Let me not take long on this, but just to say those two verses in chapter 5 summarize everything the Bible says about poisonous words. Poisonous words are untruthful and unloving. Or Paul puts it positively in Ephesians 4:15 when he says, “Speak the truth in love.” Meditate with me for a second. Unless you’re speaking the truth in love, unless your words are characterized by truthfulness and love at the same time, your words are poison. You’re destroying people. Now think about this with me. First of all, truth. What’s wrong with telling a lie? Why are untruthful words right or wrong? One Christian writer put it something like, “There are lies of gossip that make haters out of us. There are lies of advertising that make money out of us. There are lies of politicians that make pawns out of us. Lies always demean, always disempower, always distort people’s view of reality so they cannot live wisely.” Do you hear that? When you lie, you’re creating a reality for that person, but it’s not real reality. You’re not giving them the facts about things. You’re holding back something they need to know, some information they need to know, so they’re flying blind. So whenever you lie, you’re exploiting people. You’re making haters out of them. You’re making pawns out of them. You’re making money out of them, or whatever. An untruthful tongue creates an illusion around people and disempowers them, right? That’s bad, right? But guess what? There’s another way for you to have an untruthful tongue, and that is through cowardly silence. If you know something a person ought to know and out of cowardice, because you’re afraid, you don’t tell them, you are actually keeping them in a distorted reality by not saying anything. See, an untruthful tongue can be untruthful through lying and through just shutting up when you really ought to open your mouth. When you’re afraid to tell people something they really need to know because you don’t want to hurt their feelings, or you don’t want them to get mad at you or something like that, you’re disempowering them. You’re withholding the truth from them. So you can withhold the truth from somebody as much by lying as by shutting up in a cowardly way. That’s untruthful speech; that’s very poisonous. We know about that, but then there’s also unloving speech. Now, a lot of people feel in the Christian community (here I’m especially talking to Christians) that if I tell the truth and I tell people, “This is what the Bible says. This is the truth. This is what God says. It doesn’t matter so much how I say it; what matters is I’m telling the truth …” But you’re supposed to speak the truth in love, and if you speak the truth in a way that’s not loving, it’s not really caring about the truth. In Proverbs 25:15, there’s this curious verse that says, “… a gentle tongue can break a bone.” It’s kind of a strange image, isn’t it? A gentle tongue can break a bone. What is Proverbs saying there? One commentator tries to explain this beautifully when he said something like, “Breaking a bone means gentle words are the most able to break down the most hardened resistance to an idea a person may possess.” Did you catch that? Look … If you’re trying to tell somebody something they don’t want to hear, if you’re trying to tell them the truth, if you’re harsh, if you lash out at them, what are you doing? You’re actually enhancing their resistance to the truth. They’re going to get their backs up, aren’t they? Therefore, you don’t really care about the truth; you want to punish. You don’t really care whether the person believes you or not. You’re not standing up for the truth; you’re just hurting the person. What the Proverbs is saying, what the commentator is saying is, the best way of breaking down a person’s resistance to the truth is to be kind! It’s telling the truth. Be gentle; be humble; show love; show respect because when you hear somebody telling you something you don’t want to hear, you want to believe they don’t like you. Then you can dismiss them. “Ahh, I know him. Consider the source.” But when a person loves you and is humble and is gracious in the way they tell you the truth, it breaks down your resistance. So here’s the irony. If you’re not loving, if you’re not kind and gracious and timely in the way you speak to people … Find the right time. I’ve had so many people tell the truth at the worst possible time and when the person doesn’t believe, he says, “Well, I did my job.” No you didn’t! Unloving truthful words aren’t really, in the end, committed to truth. And so-called loving, cowardly silence isn’t committed to truth. But also, you see, love without truth is a lie. Truth without love is not really committed to the truth, so truth without love isn’t really truth, and love without truth isn’t really love! Only when your words are both truthful and loving at the same time is your tongue life-giving. Think about it. And by the way … listen … when I say lies, don’t forget exaggeration, strategic omission, and spin, all of which are technically factual but designed to misrepresent. Don’t do that either. When we do that, we are spreading poison. If this is the case, if words that are not truthful and loving at the same time, apt and timely and wise and gracious and direct and honest at once, you’re destroying self images, relationships, marriages, and society because the word is a bomb. Your words are like sparks.
Some words are what here in verse 8 in call poisonous. See, he says the tongue “… is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” Well, what kinds of words are poisonous? Proverbs says life and death are in the power of the tongue. The tongue can kill and it can poison but it can also give life, so what kinds of the words are poisonous words? What kinds of words bring about this destruction? You’re not going to find the answer in the chapter. Chapter 3 is where James talks about words and speech at greatest length, but he doesn’t actually mention what kinds of words are the poisonous words. You have to go back a little bit and go to chapter 5, in 5:9 and 12, James lays out what the two basic categories of the poisonous words are. Words are poisonous and they destroy and bring death if they’re untruthful or unloving. Now let’s take just a couple minutes to talk about that. Untruthful, unloving words are poison.
If you want to see a little bit of an example of that where nobody can trust the words of anybody else, if you want to see an example of that up close, go rent the movie The Lives of Others about the last days of East Germany under communism. Nobody trusted anybody else because their words meant nothing. When words mean nothing, when you can’t trust the words, there is no society, there is no community because community is made out of words. Let’s go small. If you have a relationship and you lie to that person, the person doesn’t know yet but you know there’s a distance barrier. You have to watch out what you say now and you have to be careful you don’t let the person see what you … There’s a barrier between you. Marriage. Words make or break a marriage, and do you know why? Because words have a power that is irretrievable once you say them; words have a power. If you take a sword and stick it into somebody’s flesh and then pull it out and say, “I’m sorry,” guess what? The sword is out, but the wound isn’t gone. If you make cutting remarks to your spouse and then say, “I’m sorry,” guess what? The harm isn’t gone because words have a power. Proverbs says life and death are in the power of the tongue! Do you know how many murders, suicides, and wars have been caused by careless words? Careless words! Jesus wasn’t exaggerating! Judgment day has already started on your careless words, do you know that? Let’s wrap up this first point on this power of the words. This is the reason you’ll never see anywhere in the Bible, no author in the Bible will every say anything like this, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” You know, one of the most ironic things is whenever I hear a child sing that song. The irony, of course, is you know that child is completely dominated by the words that were sung to the child. That’s stupid to say sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me. That’s crazy because frankly, here’s what the Bible teaches: sticks and stones may break your bones but words can go places sticks and stones can never go! Right into your soul, right into your self-regard, right into the center of your relationships. It can destroy by creating terrible new realities. Somebody commenting on what the Bible says about words says, “What is done to you is of very little account compared to what is done in you. Words can destroy confidence, morale, relationships, marriages, and families in a way sticks and stones can’t. Words cause murders and suicides and wars by the score. Even a single word can do this. Words are sparks; they are bombs.” So, the power of words. 2The poison of words However, it’s not all words obviously that are bad. Some words are what here in verse 8 in call poisonous. See, he says the tongue “… is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” Well, what kinds of words are poisonous? Proverbs says life and death are in the power of the tongue. The tongue can kill and it can poison but it can also give life, so what kinds of the words are poisonous words? What kinds of words bring about this destruction? You’re not going to find the answer in the chapter. Chapter 3 is where James talks about words and speech at greatest length, but he doesn’t actually mention what kinds of words are the poisonous words. You have to go back a little bit and go to chapter 5. We’re going through the book of James pretty quickly and so when we get to chapter 5, you’re not going to hear me talking about these two places. But in 5:9 and 12, James lays out what the two basic categories of the poisonous words are. Words are poisonous and they destroy and bring death if they’re untruthful or unloving. Now let’s take just a couple minutes to talk about that. Untruthful, unloving words are poison. Actually it’s in where he talks about that it’s absolutely critical to tell the truth. He actually quotes his older brother Jesus. (Remember, James is the younger brother of Jesus Christ; he’s a son of Joseph and Mary.) James, in 5:12, says, “Don’t swear, but let your ‘yes’ be yes and let your ‘no’ be no.” That’s quoting Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount, because Jesus says, “Don’t swear by heaven or earth or by Jerusalem, but let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no.” What is that? Here’s what he’s saying. You know how people say, “Well, when you go into court and you swear on a stack of Bibles, ‘I promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help me God,’ now we have to tell the truth.” Do you know what Jesus is saying? If you’re a Christian, you’re always under oath. Everywhere you go, everybody you talk to, every “yes” and every “no” ought to be as truthful as if you just swore on a stack of Bibles. You shouldn’t need to ever go under oath in order to tell the truth. You’re always under oath. That’s . Then in he says, “Don’t grumble against each other …” The word grumble, by the way, simply means to roll the eyes as you speak. Oh my gosh. New York City! Listen. Let me not take long on this, but just to say those two verses in chapter 5 summarize everything the Bible says about poisonous words. Poisonous words are untruthful and unloving. Or Paul puts it positively in when he says, “Speak the truth in love.” Meditate with me for a second. Unless you’re speaking the truth in love, unless your words are characterized by truthfulness and love at the same time, your words are poison. You’re destroying people. Now think about this with me. First of all, truth. What’s wrong with telling a lie? Why are untruthful words right or wrong? One Christian writer put it something like, “There are lies of gossip that make haters out of us. There are lies of advertising that make money out of us. There are lies of politicians that make pawns out of us. Lies always demean, always disempower, always distort people’s view of reality so they cannot live wisely.” Do you hear that? When you lie, you’re creating a reality for that person, but it’s not real reality. You’re not giving them the facts about things. You’re holding back something they need to know, some information they need to know, so they’re flying blind. So whenever you lie, you’re exploiting people. You’re making haters out of them. You’re making pawns out of them. You’re making money out of them, or whatever. An untruthful tongue creates an illusion around people and disempowers them, right? That’s bad, right? But guess what? There’s another way for you to have an untruthful tongue, and that is through cowardly silence. If you know something a person ought to know and out of cowardice, because you’re afraid, you don’t tell them, you are actually keeping them in a distorted reality by not saying anything. See, an untruthful tongue can be untruthful through lying and through just shutting up when you really ought to open your mouth. When you’re afraid to tell people something they really need to know because you don’t want to hurt their feelings, or you don’t want them to get mad at you or something like that, you’re disempowering them. You’re withholding the truth from them. So you can withhold the truth from somebody as much by lying as by shutting up in a cowardly way. That’s untruthful speech; that’s very poisonous. We know about that, but then there’s also unloving speech. Now, a lot of people feel in the Christian community (here I’m especially talking to Christians) that if I tell the truth and I tell people, “This is what the Bible says. This is the truth. This is what God says. It doesn’t matter so much how I say it; what matters is I’m telling the truth …” But you’re supposed to speak the truth in love, and if you speak the truth in a way that’s not loving, it’s not really caring about the truth. In , there’s this curious verse that says, “… a gentle tongue can break a bone.” It’s kind of a strange image, isn’t it? A gentle tongue can break a bone. What is Proverbs saying there? One commentator tries to explain this beautifully when he said something like, “Breaking a bone means gentle words are the most able to break down the most hardened resistance to an idea a person may possess.” Did you catch that? Look … If you’re trying to tell somebody something they don’t want to hear, if you’re trying to tell them the truth, if you’re harsh, if you lash out at them, what are you doing? You’re actually enhancing their resistance to the truth. They’re going to get their backs up, aren’t they? Therefore, you don’t really care about the truth; you want to punish. You don’t really care whether the person believes you or not. You’re not standing up for the truth; you’re just hurting the person. What the Proverbs is saying, what the commentator is saying is, the best way of breaking down a person’s resistance to the truth is to be kind! It’s telling the truth. Be gentle; be humble; show love; show respect because when you hear somebody telling you something you don’t want to hear, you want to believe they don’t like you. Then you can dismiss them. “Ahh, I know him. Consider the source.” But when a person loves you and is humble and is gracious in the way they tell you the truth, it breaks down your resistance. So here’s the irony. If you’re not loving, if you’re not kind and gracious and timely in the way you speak to people … Find the right time. I’ve had so many people tell the truth at the worst possible time and when the person doesn’t believe, he says, “Well, I did my job.” No you didn’t! Unloving truthful words aren’t really, in the end, committed to truth. And so-called loving, cowardly silence isn’t committed to truth. But also, you see, love without truth is a lie. Truth without love is not really committed to the truth, so truth without love isn’t really truth, and love without truth isn’t really love! Only when your words are both truthful and loving at the same time is your tongue life-giving. Think about it. And by the way … listen … when I say lies, don’t forget exaggeration, strategic omission, and spin, all of which are technically factual but designed to misrepresent. Don’t do that either. When we do that, we are spreading poison. If this is the case, if words that are not truthful and loving at the same time, apt and timely and wise and gracious and direct and honest at once, you’re destroying self images, relationships, marriages, and society because the word is a bomb. Your words are like sparks.
Proverbs says life and death are in the power of the tongue! Do you know how many murders, suicides, and wars have been caused by careless words? Careless words! Jesus wasn’t exaggerating! Judgment day has already started on your careless words, do you know that? Let’s wrap up this first point on this power of the words. This is the reason you’ll never see anywhere in the Bible, no author in the Bible will every say anything like this, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” You know, one of the most ironic things is whenever I hear a child sing that song. The irony, of course, is you know that child is completely dominated by the words that were sung to the child.
There is a lot here about the power of language. There is a lot here about the power of our words. First of all, if you go to , we see the power of words to wound. “Reckless words pierce like a sword …” This is saying words can have the power to do damage that can’t be remedied.When you say a word, you can never make it as if it had never been uttered. Once you utter a word, it’s uttered. It can never be as if it wasn’t. Words have a damaging effect that actually can’t be ever completely taken away. It’s like a sword. Look at the illustration. If you put a sword into somebody and pull it out, you pull out the sword, but you haven’t pulled out the wound. If the person survives, the scar is there forever. This is talking about slashing words, reckless, rash promises, set-up expectations and disappointments that can never be taken away. Rash or reckless statements destroy your credibility in a way that the genie can never be put back in the bottle. Certainly, rash, reckless criticisms, cutting remarks, can sour a relationship in a way that it can never really be healed. Words can wound, but more than that … more than that … 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death …” This is saying it’s not just that words can wound, but words can kill. Words have the power of death. In the whole Old Testament in the Hebrew Scriptures, the word life always is a multidimensional word. It has at least three different aspects. When it talks about life, it’s talking about physical life, personal inner life (what you and I would call psychological life), and social or communal life. This is saying words have the power to destroy all three. First of all, this has to mean words have the power to literally (physically) kill people. If you think that’s an exaggeration, all you have to do is think about some history. Words have been the cause of murder. Words have been the cause of suicide. Secondly, words kill people psychologically. Words name things. Name a child stupid or name a child dull, and the child will spend all the rest of his or her life trying to deal with that. Things you have been told, poisonous things, are sort of like toxic chemicals. When they get into the ground, it just pollutes everything. So many things that have been said to you are still distorting and polluting the way you see yourself, the way you see others, the way you see certain kinds of people. We need to redo the saying to “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can actually destroy my soul.” What is done to you isn’t anything like what is done in you, and words can get in you. They pierce. They’re like a sword. They go all the way into the inside. Of course, when we say words have the power to kill, not just physically and not just psychologically, we’re also being told here words have the power to destroy community. That comes out, for example, in 16:28. “A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends.”I’ve already started to get into this, and that is words have the power over hearers to wound and destroy, but not only that, words not only have a power over the listener to the words, but words have a power over the speaker. This is a surprising theme in Proverbs. Words have an enormous power, not only over the people who receive them, but over the persons who send them. In 12, it says, “An evil man is trapped by his sinful talk …” In the next verse, “From the fruit of his lips a man is filled with good things …” Evil words destroy you, the speaker. Good words are like fruit, are like food. The book of James actually goes even further. James makes this remarkable claim in . James says, “For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. […] Look at the ships also: though they are so large … they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs.” What James is saying and what the book of Hebrews is alluding to is simply words have an enormous amount of power in your life, how you speak, negatively and positively. Let’s think negatively. Words clothe your thoughts. Words embody your thoughts. Words clarify. They express. They clothe your thoughts. They make them real. For example, if you say to someone, “I hate you. I wish you were dead,” you said hate because you felt it, but after that you’ll feel it because you said it. Once you say something it clothes, it strengthens the thought. You said it because you felt it, but after that, you’re going to feel it because you said it. Why is language so powerful? Why does it have such power over the hearer? Why does it have such power over the speaker? Why does it have power in all these ways? I think the answer is in that very same verse we already looked at, because when it says in 18:21 the tongue has the power of death, it also says the tongue has the power of life. Then it says, “… those who love it will eat its fruit.” We are built for and we have a need for words. Words are like food. Words are like air. Words are like water for us. There is a word hunger in us. We need words to live. How? Let’s talk about this. We need words from the inside, and we need words from the outside to live. First of all, we need words from the inside. I need … you need to express yourself sometimes. Why? Because you want to be known. Do you know how frustrating it is to have something inside you can’t put into words? Do you know why? Because you want to be known. You want to be understood. You desperately need a word from the inside because you want to be known. You want people to understand you. It’s incredibly important to even being human. We can’t live without words from the inside. Secondly … oh, my goodness … we can’t live without words from the outside. There is a popular psychology still that goes like this: “It doesn’t matter what other people say about you. It shouldn’t matter at all. What should only matter is what you think and say about yourself.” That doesn’t work. That’s not true. Imagine you’re an artist and you’ve been producing art for five years, and every single person who has ever seen your art walks in and says, “This is useless.” Every one. What do you say? “Oh, who cares? All that matters is what I think and say.” No! You’d give up. Somebody has to come in and say, “This is great. I see something I didn’t see before. This is wonderful. This is glorious.” Somebody has to say it. You’re not an artist if somebody doesn’t say you’re an artist from the outside. You don’t have a self unless somebody says from the outside who you are. You need a word from the outside to affirm, to validate you. You need words from the inside. You need words from the outside. They are life! They are food! The worst possible thing possible with words, of course, is the silent treatment. The few times in my life in which I got it (you wanted to talk to somebody, and the person just wouldn’t say a thing to you) and the few times in my life I came close to giving it or did give it were awful times. We do not live by bread alone; we live by the Word. We need words desperately. Do you know why? Saint Augustine said because we are made in the image of the triune God, and from all eternity, do you realize what the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have been doing? Communicating. Which means God knows within himself the absolute joy of perfect words from inside to perfectly express yourself. Perfectly.
That’s stupid to say sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me. That’s crazy because frankly, here’s what the Bible teaches: sticks and stones may break your bones but words can go places sticks and stones can never go! Right into your soul, right into your self-regard, right into the center of your relationships. It can destroy by creating terrible new realities. Sticks and stones may break your bones, but James says: words can burn the mother down. Somebody commenting on what the Bible says about words says, “What is done to you is of very little account compared to what is done in you. Words can destroy confidence, morale, relationships, marriages, and families in a way sticks and stones can’t. Words cause murders and suicides and wars by the score. Even a single word can do this. Words are sparks; they are bombs.” So, the power of words.
Some words are what here in verse 8 in call poisonous. See, he says the tongue “… is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” Well, what kinds of words are poisonous? Proverbs says life and death are in the power of the tongue. The tongue can kill and it can poison but it can also give life, so what kinds of the words are poisonous words? What kinds of words bring about this destruction? You’re not going to find the answer in the chapter. Chapter 3 is where James talks about words and speech at greatest length, but he doesn’t actually mention what kinds of words are the poisonous words. You have to go back a little bit and go to chapter 5, in 5:9 and 12, James lays out what the two basic categories of the poisonous words are. Words are poisonous and they destroy and bring death if they’re untruthful or unloving. Now let’s take just a couple minutes to talk about that. Untruthful, unloving words are poison.
James 5:9 ESV
9 Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.
2The poison of words However, it’s not all words obviously that are bad. Some words are what here in verse 8 in call poisonous. See, he says the tongue “… is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” Well, what kinds of words are poisonous? Proverbs says life and death are in the power of the tongue. The tongue can kill and it can poison but it can also give life, so what kinds of the words are poisonous words? What kinds of words bring about this destruction? You’re not going to find the answer in the chapter. Chapter 3 is where James talks about words and speech at greatest length, but he doesn’t actually mention what kinds of words are the poisonous words. You have to go back a little bit and go to chapter 5. We’re going through the book of James pretty quickly and so when we get to chapter 5, you’re not going to hear me talking about these two places. But in 5:9 and 12, James lays out what the two basic categories of the poisonous words are. Words are poisonous and they destroy and bring death if they’re untruthful or unloving. Now let’s take just a couple minutes to talk about that. Untruthful, unloving words are poison. Actually it’s in where he talks about that it’s absolutely critical to tell the truth. He actually quotes his older brother Jesus. (Remember, James is the younger brother of Jesus Christ; he’s a son of Joseph and Mary.) James, in 5:12, says, “Don’t swear, but let your ‘yes’ be yes and let your ‘no’ be no.” That’s quoting Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount, because Jesus says, “Don’t swear by heaven or earth or by Jerusalem, but let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no.” What is that? Here’s what he’s saying. You know how people say, “Well, when you go into court and you swear on a stack of Bibles, ‘I promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help me God,’ now we have to tell the truth.” Do you know what Jesus is saying? If you’re a Christian, you’re always under oath. Everywhere you go, everybody you talk to, every “yes” and every “no” ought to be as truthful as if you just swore on a stack of Bibles. You shouldn’t need to ever go under oath in order to tell the truth. You’re always under oath. That’s . Then in he says, “Don’t grumble against each other …” The word grumble, by the way, simply means to roll the eyes as you speak. Oh my gosh. New York City! Listen. Let me not take long on this, but just to say those two verses in chapter 5 summarize everything the Bible says about poisonous words. Poisonous words are untruthful and unloving. Or Paul puts it positively in when he says, “Speak the truth in love.” Meditate with me for a second. Unless you’re speaking the truth in love, unless your words are characterized by truthfulness and love at the same time, your words are poison. You’re destroying people. Now think about this with me. First of all, truth. What’s wrong with telling a lie? Why are untruthful words right or wrong? One Christian writer put it something like, “There are lies of gossip that make haters out of us. There are lies of advertising that make money out of us. There are lies of politicians that make pawns out of us. Lies always demean, always disempower, always distort people’s view of reality so they cannot live wisely.” Do you hear that? When you lie, you’re creating a reality for that person, but it’s not real reality. You’re not giving them the facts about things. You’re holding back something they need to know, some information they need to know, so they’re flying blind. So whenever you lie, you’re exploiting people. You’re making haters out of them. You’re making pawns out of them. You’re making money out of them, or whatever. An untruthful tongue creates an illusion around people and disempowers them, right? That’s bad, right? But guess what? There’s another way for you to have an untruthful tongue, and that is through cowardly silence. If you know something a person ought to know and out of cowardice, because you’re afraid, you don’t tell them, you are actually keeping them in a distorted reality by not saying anything. See, an untruthful tongue can be untruthful through lying and through just shutting up when you really ought to open your mouth. When you’re afraid to tell people something they really need to know because you don’t want to hurt their feelings, or you don’t want them to get mad at you or something like that, you’re disempowering them. You’re withholding the truth from them. So you can withhold the truth from somebody as much by lying as by shutting up in a cowardly way. That’s untruthful speech; that’s very poisonous. We know about that, but then there’s also unloving speech. Now, a lot of people feel in the Christian community (here I’m especially talking to Christians) that if I tell the truth and I tell people, “This is what the Bible says. This is the truth. This is what God says. It doesn’t matter so much how I say it; what matters is I’m telling the truth …” But you’re supposed to speak the truth in love, and if you speak the truth in a way that’s not loving, it’s not really caring about the truth. In , there’s this curious verse that says, “… a gentle tongue can break a bone.” It’s kind of a strange image, isn’t it? A gentle tongue can break a bone. What is Proverbs saying there? One commentator tries to explain this beautifully when he said something like, “Breaking a bone means gentle words are the most able to break down the most hardened resistance to an idea a person may possess.” Did you catch that? Look … If you’re trying to tell somebody something they don’t want to hear, if you’re trying to tell them the truth, if you’re harsh, if you lash out at them, what are you doing? You’re actually enhancing their resistance to the truth. They’re going to get their backs up, aren’t they? Therefore, you don’t really care about the truth; you want to punish. You don’t really care whether the person believes you or not. You’re not standing up for the truth; you’re just hurting the person. What the Proverbs is saying, what the commentator is saying is, the best way of breaking down a person’s resistance to the truth is to be kind! It’s telling the truth. Be gentle; be humble; show love; show respect because when you hear somebody telling you something you don’t want to hear, you want to believe they don’t like you. Then you can dismiss them. “Ahh, I know him. Consider the source.” But when a person loves you and is humble and is gracious in the way they tell you the truth, it breaks down your resistance. So here’s the irony. If you’re not loving, if you’re not kind and gracious and timely in the way you speak to people … Find the right time. I’ve had so many people tell the truth at the worst possible time and when the person doesn’t believe, he says, “Well, I did my job.” No you didn’t! Unloving truthful words aren’t really, in the end, committed to truth. And so-called loving, cowardly silence isn’t committed to truth. But also, you see, love without truth is a lie. Truth without love is not really committed to the truth, so truth without love isn’t really truth, and love without truth isn’t really love! Only when your words are both truthful and loving at the same time is your tongue life-giving. Think about it. And by the way … listen … when I say lies, don’t forget exaggeration, strategic omission, and spin, all of which are technically factual but designed to misrepresent. Don’t do that either. When we do that, we are spreading poison. If this is the case, if words that are not truthful and loving at the same time, apt and timely and wise and gracious and direct and honest at once, you’re destroying self images, relationships, marriages, and society because the word is a bomb. Your words are like sparks.
Some words are what here in verse 8 in call poisonous. See, he says the tongue “… is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” Well, what kinds of words are poisonous? Proverbs says life and death are in the power of the tongue. The tongue can kill and it can poison but it can also give life, so what kinds of the words are poisonous words? What kinds of words bring about this destruction? You’re not going to find the answer in the chapter. Chapter 3 is where James talks about words and speech at greatest length, but he doesn’t actually mention what kinds of words are the poisonous words. You have to go back a little bit and go to chapter 5.
James 5:12 ESV
12 But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.
James
It’s where he talks about that it’s absolutely critical to tell the truth. He actually quotes his older brother Jesus. James, in 5:12, says, “Don’t swear, but let your ‘yes’ be yes and let your ‘no’ be no.” That’s quoting Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount, because Jesus says, “Don’t swear by heaven or earth or by Jerusalem, but let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no.” What is that? Here’s what he’s saying. You know how people say, “Well, when you go into court and you swear on a stack of Bibles, ‘I promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help me God,’ now we have to tell the truth.” Do you know what Jesus is saying? If you’re a Christian, you’re always under oath. Everywhere you go, everybody you talk to, every “yes” and every “no” ought to be as truthful as if you just swore on a stack of Bibles. You shouldn’t need to ever go under oath in order to tell the truth. You’re always under oath. That’s . Then in he says, “Don’t grumble against each other …” The word grumble, by the way, simply means to roll the eyes as you speak. Let me not take long on this, but just to say those two verses in chapter 5 summarize everything the Bible says about poisonous words. Poisonous words are untruthful and unloving. Or Paul puts it positively in when he says, “Speak the truth in love.”
We’re going through the book of James pretty quickly and so when we get to chapter 5, you’re not going to hear me talking about these two places. But in 5:9 and 12, James lays out what the two basic categories of the poisonous words are. Words are poisonous and they destroy and bring death if they’re untruthful or unloving. Now let’s take just a couple minutes to talk about that. Untruthful, unloving words are poison.
Actually it’s in where he talks about that it’s absolutely critical to tell the truth. He actually quotes his older brother Jesus. (Remember, James is the younger brother of Jesus Christ; he’s a son of Joseph and Mary.) James, in 5:12, says, “Don’t swear, but let your ‘yes’ be yes and let your ‘no’ be no.” That’s quoting Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount, because Jesus says, “Don’t swear by heaven or earth or by Jerusalem, but let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no.” What is that?
Here’s what he’s saying. You know how people say, “Well, when you go into court and you swear on a stack of Bibles, ‘I promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help me God,’ now we have to tell the truth.” Do you know what Jesus is saying? If you’re a Christian, you’re always under oath. Everywhere you go, everybody you talk to, every “yes” and every “no” ought to be as truthful as if you just swore on a stack of Bibles. You shouldn’t need to ever go under oath in order to tell the truth. You’re always under oath. That’s .
Then in he says, “Don’t grumble against each other …” The word grumble, by the way, simply means to roll the eyes as you speak. Let me not take long on this, but just to say those two verses in chapter 5 summarize everything the Bible says about poisonous words. Poisonous words are untruthful and unloving. Or Paul puts it positively in when he says, “Speak the truth in love.”
Ephesians 4:15 ESV
15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,
Or :
Then in he says, “Don’t grumble against each other …” The word grumble, by the way, simply means to roll the eyes as you speak. Oh my gosh. New York City! Listen. Let me not take long on this, but just to say those two verses in chapter 5 summarize everything the Bible says about poisonous words. Poisonous words are untruthful and unloving. Or Paul puts it positively in when he says, “Speak the truth in love.”
Ephesians 4:29 ESV
29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Meditate with me for a second. Unless you’re speaking the truth in love, unless your words are characterized by truthfulness and love at the same time, your words are poison. You’re destroying people. Now think about this with me. First of all, truth. What’s wrong with telling a lie? Why are untruthful words right or wrong? One Christian writer put it something like, “There are lies of gossip that make haters out of us. There are lies of advertising that make money out of us. There are lies of politicians that make pawns out of us. Lies always demean, always disempower, always distort people’s view of reality so they cannot live wisely.” Do you hear that? When you lie, you’re creating a reality for that person, but it’s not real reality. You’re not giving them the facts about things. You’re holding back something they need to know, some information they need to know, so they’re flying blind. So whenever you lie, you’re exploiting people. You’re making haters out of them. You’re making pawns out of them. You’re making money out of them, or whatever. An untruthful tongue creates an illusion around people and disempowers them, right? That’s bad, right? But guess what? There’s another way for you to have an untruthful tongue, and that is through cowardly silence. If you know something a person ought to know and out of cowardice, because you’re afraid, you don’t tell them, you are actually keeping them in a distorted reality by not saying anything. See, an untruthful tongue can be untruthful through lying and through just shutting up when you really ought to open your mouth. When you’re afraid to tell people something they really need to know because you don’t want to hurt their feelings, or you don’t want them to get mad at you or something like that, you’re disempowering them. You’re withholding the truth from them. So you can withhold the truth from somebody as much by lying as by shutting up in a cowardly way. That’s untruthful speech; that’s very poisonous.
Meditate with me for a second. Unless you’re speaking the truth in love, unless your words are characterized by truthfulness and love at the same time, your words are poison. You’re destroying people. Now think about this with me. First of all, truth. What’s wrong with telling a lie? Why are untruthful words right or wrong? One Christian writer put it something like, “There are lies of gossip that make haters out of us. There are lies of advertising that make money out of us. There are lies of politicians that make pawns out of us. Lies always demean, always disempower, always distort people’s view of reality so they cannot live wisely.” Do you hear that? When you lie, you’re creating a reality for that person, but it’s not real reality. You’re not giving them the facts about things. You’re holding back something they need to know, some information they need to know, so they’re flying blind. So whenever you lie, you’re exploiting people. You’re making haters out of them. You’re making pawns out of them. You’re making money out of them, or whatever. An untruthful tongue creates an illusion around people and disempowers them, right? That’s bad, right? But guess what? There’s another way for you to have an untruthful tongue, and that is through cowardly silence. If you know something a person ought to know and out of cowardice, because you’re afraid, you don’t tell them, you are actually keeping them in a distorted reality by not saying anything. See, an untruthful tongue can be untruthful through lying and through just shutting up when you really ought to open your mouth. When you’re afraid to tell people something they really need to know because you don’t want to hurt their feelings, or you don’t want them to get mad at you or something like that, you’re disempowering them. You’re withholding the truth from them. So you can withhold the truth from somebody as much by lying as by shutting up in a cowardly way. That’s untruthful speech; that’s very poisonous. We know about that, but then there’s also unloving speech. Now, a lot of people feel in the Christian community (here I’m especially talking to Christians) that if I tell the truth and I tell people, “This is what the Bible says. This is the truth. This is what God says. It doesn’t matter so much how I say it; what matters is I’m telling the truth …” But you’re supposed to speak the truth in love, and if you speak the truth in a way that’s not loving, it’s not really caring about the truth. In , there’s this curious verse that says, “… a gentle tongue can break a bone.” It’s kind of a strange image, isn’t it? A gentle tongue can break a bone. What is Proverbs saying there? One commentator tries to explain this beautifully when he said something like, “Breaking a bone means gentle words are the most able to break down the most hardened resistance to an idea a person may possess.” Did you catch that? Look … If you’re trying to tell somebody something they don’t want to hear, if you’re trying to tell them the truth, if you’re harsh, if you lash out at them, what are you doing? You’re actually enhancing their resistance to the truth. They’re going to get their backs up, aren’t they? Therefore, you don’t really care about the truth; you want to punish. You don’t really care whether the person believes you or not. You’re not standing up for the truth; you’re just hurting the person. What the Proverbs is saying, what the commentator is saying is, the best way of breaking down a person’s resistance to the truth is to be kind! It’s telling the truth. Be gentle; be humble; show love; show respect because when you hear somebody telling you something you don’t want to hear, you want to believe they don’t like you. Then you can dismiss them. “Ahh, I know him. Consider the source.” But when a person loves you and is humble and is gracious in the way they tell you the truth, it breaks down your resistance. So here’s the irony. If you’re not loving, if you’re not kind and gracious and timely in the way you speak to people … Find the right time. I’ve had so many people tell the truth at the worst possible time and when the person doesn’t believe, he says, “Well, I did my job.” No you didn’t! Unloving truthful words aren’t really, in the end, committed to truth. And so-called loving, cowardly silence isn’t committed to truth. But also, you see, love without truth is a lie. Truth without love is not really committed to the truth, so truth without love isn’t really truth, and love without truth isn’t really love! Only when your words are both truthful and loving at the same time is your tongue life-giving. Think about it. And by the way … listen … when I say lies, don’t forget exaggeration, strategic omission, and spin, all of which are technically factual but designed to misrepresent. Don’t do that either. When we do that, we are spreading poison. If this is the case, if words that are not truthful and loving at the same time, apt and timely and wise and gracious and direct and honest at once, you’re destroying self images, relationships, marriages, and society because the word is a bomb. Your words are like sparks.
If you know something a person ought to know and out of cowardice, because you’re afraid, you don’t tell them, you are actually keeping them in a distorted reality by not saying anything. See, an untruthful tongue can be untruthful through lying and through just shutting up when you really ought to open your mouth. When you’re afraid to tell people something they really need to know because you don’t want to hurt their feelings, or you don’t want them to get mad at you or something like that, you’re disempowering them. You’re withholding the truth from them. So you can withhold the truth from somebody as much by lying as by shutting up in a cowardly way. That’s untruthful speech; that’s very poisonous.
We know about that, but then there’s also unloving speech. Now, a lot of people feel in the Christian community that if I tell the truth and I tell people, “This is what the Bible says. This is the truth. This is what God says. It doesn’t matter so much how I say it; what matters is I’m telling the truth …” But you’re supposed to speak the truth in love, and if you speak the truth in a way that’s not loving, it’s not really caring about the truth. In , there’s this curious verse that says, “… a gentle tongue can break a bone.” It’s kind of a strange image, isn’t it? A gentle tongue can break a bone. What is Proverbs saying there? One commentator tries to explain this beautifully when he said something like, “Breaking a bone means gentle words are the most able to break down the most hardened resistance to an idea a person may possess.” Did you catch that?
Proverbs 25:15 ESV
15 With patience a ruler may be persuaded, and a soft tongue will break a bone.
Look … If you’re trying to tell somebody something they don’t want to hear, if you’re trying to tell them the truth, if you’re harsh, if you lash out at them, what are you doing? You’re actually enhancing their resistance to the truth. They’re going to get their backs up, aren’t they? Therefore, you don’t really care about the truth; you want to punish. You don’t really care whether the person believes you or not. You’re not standing up for the truth; you’re just hurting the person. What the Proverbs is saying, what the commentator is saying is, the best way of breaking down a person’s resistance to the truth is to be kind! It’s telling the truth. Be gentle; be humble; show love; show respect because when you hear somebody telling you something you don’t want to hear, you want to believe they don’t like you. Then you can dismiss them. “Ahh, I know him. Consider the source.” But when a person loves you and is humble and is gracious in the way they tell you the truth, it breaks down your resistance. So here’s the irony. If you’re not loving, if you’re not kind and gracious and timely in the way you speak to people … I’ve had so many people tell the truth at the worst possible time and when the person doesn’t believe, he says, “Well, I did my job.” No you didn’t! Unloving truthful words aren’t really, in the end, committed to truth. And so-called loving, cowardly silence isn’t committed to truth. But also, you see, love without truth is a lie. Truth without love is not really committed to the truth, so truth without love isn’t really truth, and love without truth isn’t really love! Only when your words are both truthful and loving at the same time is your tongue life-giving. Think about it. And by the way … listen … when I say lies, don’t forget exaggeration, strategic omission, and spin, all of which are technically factual but designed to misrepresent. Don’t do that either. When we do that, we are spreading poison. If this is the case, if words that are not truthful and loving at the same time, apt and timely and wise and gracious and direct and honest at once, you’re destroying self images, relationships, marriages, and society because the word is a bomb. Your words are like sparks. So, there’s point one: the significance and power of our words: it’s quite overwhelming and perhaps we would be better to just duct tape our mouth shut. But, there’s a tension: we can’t keep our mouth shut: we’re commanded to talk: to share the good news: to encourage one another, to confront one another, to love one another and speak the truth into each other’s lives. So, what do we do: do we just shut up? Do we just work harder at our words, do we need to take inventory daily on the words we spoke? It’s very important that we not only see the significance and power of our words, but also the source and healing of our words.
We know about that, but then there’s also unloving speech. Now, a lot of people feel in the Christian community (here I’m especially talking to Christians) that if I tell the truth and I tell people, “This is what the Bible says. This is the truth. This is what God says. It doesn’t matter so much how I say it; what matters is I’m telling the truth …” But you’re supposed to speak the truth in love, and if you speak the truth in a way that’s not loving, it’s not really caring about the truth. In , there’s this curious verse that says, “… a gentle tongue can break a bone.” It’s kind of a strange image, isn’t it? A gentle tongue can break a bone. What is Proverbs saying there? One commentator tries to explain this beautifully when he said something like, “Breaking a bone means gentle words are the most able to break down the most hardened resistance to an idea a person may possess.” Did you catch that? Look … If you’re trying to tell somebody something they don’t want to hear, if you’re trying to tell them the truth, if you’re harsh, if you lash out at them, what are you doing? You’re actually enhancing their resistance to the truth. They’re going to get their backs up, aren’t they? Therefore, you don’t really care about the truth; you want to punish. You don’t really care whether the person believes you or not. You’re not standing up for the truth; you’re just hurting the person. What the Proverbs is saying, what the commentator is saying is, the best way of breaking down a person’s resistance to the truth is to be kind! It’s telling the truth. Be gentle; be humble; show love; show respect because when you hear somebody telling you something you don’t want to hear, you want to believe they don’t like you. Then you can dismiss them. “Ahh, I know him. Consider the source.” But when a person loves you and is humble and is gracious in the way they tell you the truth, it breaks down your resistance. So here’s the irony. If you’re not loving, if you’re not kind and gracious and timely in the way you speak to people … Find the right time. I’ve had so many people tell the truth at the worst possible time and when the person doesn’t believe, he says, “Well, I did my job.” No you didn’t! Unloving truthful words aren’t really, in the end, committed to truth. And so-called loving, cowardly silence isn’t committed to truth. But also, you see, love without truth is a lie. Truth without love is not really committed to the truth, so truth without love isn’t really truth, and love without truth isn’t really love! Only when your words are both truthful and loving at the same time is your tongue life-giving. Think about it. And by the way … listen … when I say lies, don’t forget exaggeration, strategic omission, and spin, all of which are technically factual but designed to misrepresent. Don’t do that either. When we do that, we are spreading poison. If this is the case, if words that are not truthful and loving at the same time, apt and timely and wise and gracious and direct and honest at once, you’re destroying self images, relationships, marriages, and society because the word is a bomb. Your words are like sparks.
So here’s the irony. If you’re not loving, if you’re not kind and gracious and timely in the way you speak to people … Find the right time. I’ve had so many people tell the truth at the worst possible time and when the person doesn’t believe, he says, “Well, I did my job.” No you didn’t! Unloving truthful words aren’t really, in the end, committed to truth. And so-called loving, cowardly silence isn’t committed to truth. But also, you see, love without truth is a lie. Truth without love is not really committed to the truth, so truth without love isn’t really truth, and love without truth isn’t really love! Only when your words are both truthful and loving at the same time is your tongue life-giving. Think about it. And by the way … listen … when I say lies, don’t forget exaggeration, strategic omission, and spin, all of which are technically factual but designed to misrepresent. Don’t do that either. When we do that, we are spreading poison. If this is the case, if words that are not truthful and loving at the same time, apt and timely and wise and gracious and direct and honest at once, you’re destroying self images, relationships, marriages, and society because the word is a bomb. Your words are like sparks.
Look … If you’re trying to tell somebody something they don’t want to hear, if you’re trying to tell them the truth, if you’re harsh, if you lash out at them, what are you doing? You’re actually enhancing their resistance to the truth. They’re going to get their backs up, aren’t they? Therefore, you don’t really care about the truth; you want to punish. You don’t really care whether the person believes you or not. You’re not standing up for the truth; you’re just hurting the person. What the Proverbs is saying, what the commentator is saying is, the best way of breaking down a person’s resistance to the truth is to be kind! It’s telling the truth. Be gentle; be humble; show love; show respect because when you hear somebody telling you something you don’t want to hear, you want to believe they don’t like you. Then you can dismiss them. “Ahh, I know him. Consider the source.” But when a person loves you and is humble and is gracious in the way they tell you the truth, it breaks down your resistance. So here’s the irony. If you’re not loving, if you’re not kind and gracious and timely in the way you speak to people … Find the right time. I’ve had so many people tell the truth at the worst possible time and when the person doesn’t believe, he says, “Well, I did my job.” No you didn’t! Unloving truthful words aren’t really, in the end, committed to truth. And so-called loving, cowardly silence isn’t committed to truth. But also, you see, love without truth is a lie. Truth without love is not really committed to the truth, so truth without love isn’t really truth, and love without truth isn’t really love! Only when your words are both truthful and loving at the same time is your tongue life-giving. Think about it. And by the way … listen … when I say lies, don’t forget exaggeration, strategic omission, and spin, all of which are technically factual but designed to misrepresent. Don’t do that either. When we do that, we are spreading poison. If this is the case, if words that are not truthful and loving at the same time, apt and timely and wise and gracious and direct and honest at once, you’re destroying self images, relationships, marriages, and society because the word is a bomb. Your words are like sparks.
The Source of Every Word

2. The Source and Healing of Every Word

First what is the source of every word we speak? Is it the situation we face that determines the words we speak? Is it our cultural upbringing, the external. Not according to this passage, not according to Jesus, not according to the Word of God.
Matthew 12:33–34 ESV
33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
The words flow from the heart. :
Proverbs 16:23 ESV
23 The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious and adds persuasiveness to his lips.
Proverbs 16:23 ESV
23 The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious and adds persuasiveness to his lips.
It’s out of what fills the heart that the mouth speaks. It would be very easy to take the list and talk about truthful words and kinds words and apt words and direct words and economical words and say, “Okay. I’m just going to work at this. I’m going to hold myself accountable to other people. I’m just going to really watch. Every night, I’m going to do an inventory. I’m going to watch my words.” Willpower isn’t enough. Just trying isn’t enough. Jesus says, the book of Proverbs says, ultimately, the only thing that can heal your words is a change in what fills the heart. Jesus says what fills the heart determines how you speak. All of your mouth problems come from what fills the heart.
It’s out of what fills the heart that the mouth speaks. It would be very easy to take the list and talk about truthful words and kinds words and apt words and direct words and economical words and say, “Okay. I’m just going to work at this. I’m going to hold myself accountable to other people. I’m just going to really watch. Every night, I’m going to do an inventory. I’m going to watch my words.” Willpower isn’t enough. Just trying isn’t enough. Jesus says, the book of Proverbs says, ultimately, the only thing that can heal your words is a change in what fills the heart. Jesus says what fills the heart determines how you speak. All of your mouth problems come from what fills the heart. What is the heart though? The heart in the Bible is not just the seat of the emotions. The heart is actually the control center for the entire acting self. When the Bible talks about your heart, it’s talking about what you most hope in, what you most love, what gives you meaning in life, what you’re really living for, what you’re really looking to for your significance and security. It’s your emotions: how you feel, it’s your volition: what you will, it’s your cogniton: what you think. That’s your heart.
All of our heart problems … all of them … become words problems. All of our word problems come from what fills the heart. Back to James chapter 3: James is saying if you can control your tongue you can control your whole body, verse 12 he says:
James 3:12 ESV
12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.
What is the heart though? The heart in the Bible is not just the seat of the emotions. The heart is actually the control center for the entire acting self. When the Bible talks about your heart, it’s talking about what you most hope in, what you most love, what gives you meaning in life, what you’re really living for, what you’re really looking to for your significance and security. It’s your emotions: how you feel, it’s your volition: what you will, it’s your cogniton: what you think. That’s your heart. All of our heart problems … all of them … become words problems. All of our word problems come from what fills the heart. How can we actually heal our words? The answer is Pentecost. Did you know across the world in the Western churches, this is Pentecost Sunday? It’s a particular Sunday after Easter. In the more liturgical churches, it is a little bigger deal than it is at Redeemer, but I’m telling you about it anyway. This is Pentecost Sunday. Do you know what’s interesting about ? When the Holy Spirit in came down on the people, the first thing that was healed was their tongues. Their speech was affected. They became so incredibly eloquent, even if you didn’t know their language and even if they didn’t know your language, you heard a word. They perfectly expressed themselves from the inside. The listeners heard a perfect word from the outside. Why? Because the Holy Spirit had filled their hearts with something new. and Pentecost is the reversal of the curse of Babel. Do you remember what happened in ? Because the people’s hearts were filled with making a name for themselves, they wanted to make a name for themselves (self-glorification) … Because their hearts were filled with self-glorification, language didn’t work at Babel. They couldn’t express themselves in a way they were understood. Nobody could understand the word from inside. Nobody could receive a word from the outside. Language broke down, but in , we’re told, at Pentecost, their language was healed because their hearts were filled with something. It’s out of what fills the heart that the mouth speaks. What were their hearts filled with? They were filled with Jesus. When Jesus came into the world, , says, “Never man spake like this man.” No one ever used language like Jesus. Go and look at everything Jesus ever said. Not one unnecessary word. Not one unapt word. Not one unkind word. Not one untruthful word. No one ever spoke like Jesus spoke, but it was more than that. Jesus Christ wasn’t just a great example of speaking. Jesus Christ, according to the Bible, is the Word. He’s the Word of God. In fact, in , if you were here, he’s the final Word. God has spoken in many times and many places, but he has spoken to us finally in his Son. Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega. What does that mean? He’s the whole dictionary. He’s the whole lexicon. He’s the whole alphabet. He is the Word and the only Word that will satisfy the infinite word hunger of our human souls. Why? Why is he the ultimate Word? Why is he the only thing that will heal our hearts and, therefore, our mouths? The answer is, when Jesus Christ went on the cross, he got the ultimate silent treatment. When he said, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” he might as well have said, “Why aren’t you speaking to me? I’m crying to you.” There was a complete breakdown of language between the Father and the Son. He got the cosmic silent treatment. Oh, my goodness! Think of what that was like. You say, “Why?” You and I have been abusing each other with our language for so long and we have made such a muck of our society because of our words, the way in which we’ve slashed each other with our words, the swords of our words, we deserve the silent treatment. We deserve that, but Jesus got it for us. Because Jesus Christ received the ultimate silent treatment, you and I can get the word from outside that our hearts need more than any other word. “You are my beloved child. With you I am well pleased.” Do you remember when Jesus was baptized? The Holy Spirit came down. That’s what Pentecost is. What does the Holy Spirit do? The Holy Spirit comes down on Jesus, and he heard God say, “You are my beloved Son, in whom I am [delighted].” But Paul has the audacity to say in , “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” That is to say, unlike religion, unlike the other religions that say, “If you live a good enough life, maybe when you get to the end of life God might accept you into heaven.” No! Through the Holy Spirit, because Jesus got the silent treatment for you, because he took the penalty for you, you can hear the one word from outside we need, the only word that will heal our hearts and our mouths. That is to hear now God say to you, “I am delighted in you. You are my child.” If you hear that, to the degree that it resonates in your soul, to that degree you don’t need to lie anymore. You don’t need to slash people anymore. Finally, you are free to tell truth and to hear the truth, because you have received the ultimate Word of God through Jesus. Maybe some of you are saying, “I’m just not eloquent.” Ha! So what? Jesus Christ, one day when everybody was saying, “Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna!” and some of the people said, “Will you stop your followers yelling, ‘Hosanna’?” Jesus Christ said, “If they would stop saying, ‘Hosanna!” the stones will cry out.” You could be a stone, but if you know who he is and his Holy Spirit has come into your life, your words will be truthful and kind and apt and beautiful. Let us pray.
James is teaching the same truth Jesus is teaching in : make a tree good and its fruit will be good or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad for a tree is recognized by its fruit.
Matthew 12:34 ESV
34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
It is 16:23. “A wise man’s heart guides his mouth …” Jesus Christ picks up on that directly in Matthew 12 and says, “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.… how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” It’s out of what fills the heart that the mouth speaks. It would be very easy to take the list and talk about truthful words and kinds words and apt words and direct words and economical words and say, “Okay. I’m just going to work at this. I’m going to hold myself accountable to other people. I’m just going to really watch. Every night, I’m going to do an inventory. I’m going to watch my words.” Willpower isn’t enough. Just trying isn’t enough. Jesus says, the book of Proverbs says, ultimately, the only thing that can heal your words is a change in what fills the heart. Jesus says what fills the heart determines how you speak. All of your mouth problems come from what fills the heart. What is the heart, class? If you’ve been here this year, you know the heart in the Bible is not the seat of the emotions. The heart is actually the control center for the entire acting self. When the Bible talks about your heart, it’s talking about what you most hope in, what you most love, what gives you meaning in life, what you’re really living for, what you’re really looking to for your significance and security. That’s your heart. Jesus says out of the overflow of that all of our problems come. For example, why do you lie? You say, “Well, because we’re sinners.” Yes. Right. Why do you lie in the particular way you do? I want you to think about this. I often use this illustration when trying to explain how the gospel changes the heart. One of the things you’ll find out in marriage (one of the things Kathy and I discovered) is, when you’re really living together, you can hear the other person sort of fudge on the truth a little bit, sort of spin a little bit. We noticed I tend to spin the truth more when I’m afraid of hurting somebody’s feelings, though I don’t mind being inconvenienced. Kathy is much, much more likely to spin the truth when she’s being inconvenienced because she doesn’t really care that much about people’s approval. In other words, the reason I lie (let me just stop talking about her, because she’s not up here) is because at the moment, at that very moment, people’s approval is the most important thing to me. It’s my functional salvation. My heart is filled with a need for looking good, or I wouldn’t lie. Every lie comes because your heart is filled with something, which at that point is the most important thing to you. It’s a functional savior. It’s a functional salvation. All of our heart problems … all of them … become words problems. All of our word problems come from what fills the heart. How can we actually heal our words? The answer is Pentecost. Did you know across the world in the Western churches, this is Pentecost Sunday? It’s a particular Sunday after Easter. In the more liturgical churches, it is a little bigger deal than it is at Redeemer, but I’m telling you about it anyway. This is Pentecost Sunday. Do you know what’s interesting about Acts 2? When the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 came down on the people, the first thing that was healed was their tongues. Their speech was affected. They became so incredibly eloquent, even if you didn’t know their language and even if they didn’t know your language, you heard a word. They perfectly expressed themselves from the inside. The listeners heard a perfect word from the outside. Why? Because the Holy Spirit had filled their hearts with something new. Acts 2 and Pentecost is the reversal of the curse of Babel. Do you remember what happened in Genesis 11? Because the people’s hearts were filled with making a name for themselves, they wanted to make a name for themselves (self-glorification) … Because their hearts were filled with self-glorification, language didn’t work at Babel. They couldn’t express themselves in a way they were understood. Nobody could understand the word from inside. Nobody could receive a word from the outside. Language broke down, but in Acts 2, we’re told, at Pentecost, their language was healed because their hearts were filled with something. It’s out of what fills the heart that the mouth speaks. What were their hearts filled with? They were filled with Jesus. When Jesus came into the world, John 7:46, says, “Never man spake like this man.” No one ever used language like Jesus. Go and look at everything Jesus ever said. Not one unnecessary word. Not one unapt word. Not one unkind word. Not one untruthful word. No one ever spoke like Jesus spoke, but it was more than that. Jesus Christ wasn’t just a great example of speaking. Jesus Christ, according to the Bible, is the Word. He’s the Word of God. In fact, in Hebrews 1, if you were here, he’s the final Word. God has spoken in many times and many places, but he has spoken to us finally in his Son. Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega. What does that mean? He’s the whole dictionary. He’s the whole lexicon. He’s the whole alphabet. He is the Word and the only Word that will satisfy the infinite word hunger of our human souls. Why? Why is he the ultimate Word? Why is he the only thing that will heal our hearts and, therefore, our mouths? The answer is, when Jesus Christ went on the cross, he got the ultimate silent treatment. When he said, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” he might as well have said, “Why aren’t you speaking to me? I’m crying to you.” There was a complete breakdown of language between the Father and the Son. He got the cosmic silent treatment. Oh, my goodness! Think of what that was like. You say, “Why?” You and I have been abusing each other with our language for so long and we have made such a muck of our society because of our words, the way in which we’ve slashed each other with our words, the swords of our words, we deserve the silent treatment. We deserve that, but Jesus got it for us. Because Jesus Christ received the ultimate silent treatment, you and I can get the word from outside that our hearts need more than any other word. “You are my beloved child. With you I am well pleased.” Do you remember when Jesus was baptized? The Holy Spirit came down. That’s what Pentecost is. What does the Holy Spirit do? The Holy Spirit comes down on Jesus, and he heard God say, “You are my beloved Son, in whom I am [delighted].” But Paul has the audacity to say in Romans 8:16, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” That is to say, unlike religion, unlike the other religions that say, “If you live a good enough life, maybe when you get to the end of life God might accept you into heaven.” No! Through the Holy Spirit, because Jesus got the silent treatment for you, because he took the penalty for you, you can hear the one word from outside we need, the only word that will heal our hearts and our mouths. That is to hear now God say to you, “I am delighted in you. You are my child.” If you hear that, to the degree that it resonates in your soul, to that degree you don’t need to lie anymore. You don’t need to slash people anymore. Finally, you are free to tell truth and to hear the truth, because you have received the ultimate Word of God through Jesus. Maybe some of you are saying, “I’m just not eloquent.” Ha! So what? Jesus Christ, one day when everybody was saying, “Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna!” and some of the people said, “Will you stop your followers yelling, ‘Hosanna’?” Jesus Christ said, “If they would stop saying, ‘Hosanna!” the stones will cry out.” You could be a stone, but if you know who he is and his Holy Spirit has come into your life, your words will be truthful and kind and apt and beautiful. Let us pray.
How can we who are corrupt, then, speak good? That’s the question we’re dealing with. And what is James getting at in : at first he seems he’s saying: if you can control your tongue you can control your heart, and then at the end, verse 12: it seems he’s saying your heart controls your tongue. Does that sound contradictory to you? Those two strategies are not contradictory; they’re complimentary. First of all, strategy one. Get control of your tongue in order to shape what’s in your heart. World Harvest Mission has a discipleship course, and in that discipleship course, there’s an assignment one week. That assignment to members of the course is for a week, never boast or defend yourself, and never gossip or speak negatively about somebody. It’s a tongue assignment. On the one hand, don’t boast or defend yourself (that’s building yourself up), and don’t gossip or speak negatively about someone (that’s tearing people down) for one week. At first: I thought, “That’s the stupidest assignment I’ve ever heard in my life. A week? Are you kidding?” And then I tried doing it. Look … I would like you to do this. Tomorrow morning, from nine until noon, do not defend yourself or boast, do not gossip or speak negatively about anybody. Just try it for a morning and then you’ll need a long lunch. Here’s the reason why. You will be amazed by how much pride, defensiveness, insecurity, superiority, self-righteousness, how much you need to put people down and how much you need to build people up, and how untruthful and how unloving especially your words are. Because, when you’re defending yourself, you won’t be completely truthful, and when you’re talking about other people you will not be loving.
Richard Nixon had to resign as president of the United States because of the Watergate tapes, his history will not tell you completely, I think, the truth about why that happened. The Watergate tapes were tapes he had made of his conversations in private, but he did not think they would ever be brought out. He was speaking casually, speaking spontaneously; out of what was in his heart, his mouth was speaking. The tapes were subpoenaed by Congress and they were made public. History will tell you the reason he had to resign was that on one of the tapes, there was obstruction of justice, which of course was against the law. But frankly what happened was, if you ever listen … Read the transcripts of those tapes. The way he talked about his enemies, the way he talked about his friends, the way he mocked people, the way he disdained people, the viciousness, the pride, the ego, the defensiveness, was appalling. Richard Nixon lost the presidency because he never took the World Harvest Mission discipleship course and he never took that assignment. That assignment would have made him come to grips and say, “Do you realize what your unguarded words are telling people about your heart, telling you about your heart? Deal with that!” He never did. But you must. You have to find those things. You have to listen to your tongue. You have to listen to your words. You have to get a hold of those things and that will help you come to grips with your heart.
What about the other strategy? Let’s look at that other one. On the one hand, it’s true that coming to grips with and getting control of your mouth helps you come to deal with what’s in your heart. But more fundamentally, what fills your heart controls what you say with your mouth. When Jesus says in , “Out of what fills the heart, the mouth speaks,” that word literally “out of what fills the heart” is the word for excessiveness. Here’s what he says. He means every single person has something in your life that’s filling your heart. Excessiveness. Over the top passion and desire. What do you most want in life? What is it that really, really, really you feel like, “If I had that, then I could receive life joyfully”? If it’s your reputation, if a good name is the most important thing to you, then when somebody criticizes you, you’ll cut them down with your words. It won’t be loving. If approval is the most important thing, if what really matters to you is human approval, “I want people to like me,” then you’re going to be a coward. You’re never going to open your mouth and you’re going to be untruthful by withholding the truth from people. Or maybe if you want money and you want status, you’ll be spinning and exaggerating to get contracts. You won’t be truthful. If what fills your heart isn’t God and his love, you will find yourself either being untruthful or unloving or both.
So you look at your tongue, your words: to see the excess of your heart, then you look at your heart: your passions, your desires: you’ll find what is leading unloving and untruthful words. So, last question: how can it be healed? Notice James first of all says it cannot be tamed.
James 3:7–8 ESV
7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
ILL: All kinds of animals can be tamed he says, but not the tongue. Have you ever tried to train an animal? The last one we tried to train was a little Yorkie, the owner that sold him to us: said yea: he’s house broken: no. For Joshua’s birthday his present was this little Yorkie, and Josh named him Mario. We got a really good deal on him: half the brain for half the price; this dog could not figure it out. It doesn’t help that we’re never home, and so training was not hat consistent, but guess what: he was not untamable, he was not untrainable: it just took more effort on our part, and more time. As small as his brain was: he was tamable; he was finally house broken, and then I ran over him with my truck on the way to church one day. But, even as fierce as the grizzly bear is: he is tamable; but the tongue cannot be tamed: that’s the point we need to discover: it’s fierceness is far, far more extreme than the grizzly’s; it’s ignorance is far far more extreme than Mario’s. The tongue cannot be tamed. We can’t leave here and say: well I’ll try harder. No, back one verse: Here’s how to find the healing. And first it’s confusing to see:
James 3:6 ESV
6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.
Is this just James trying to scare us? Is it just saying the negative and no positive. I don’t believe so. I believe James knows and is reminding us that hell fire is not the only fire that can set the course of life. There’s also the fire of Pentecost. On Pentecost in , fire from heaven came down in the form of little tongues of flame over everybody’s head and the people who received the Holy Spirit, their tongues were healed. They were able to speak, so everybody could understand them, words of compelling and surpassing beauty of what Jesus Christ had done. , the Pentecost, the fire from heaven, not coming up from hell, the fire from heaven coming down and healing the speech, is the opposite of what happened in . The Tower of Babel: when the people came together to make a name for themselves and to live for their own glory and to create a society based on their own power and their own pride and their own reputation and their own glory. Do you remember what happened? Their speech was confused. Their words went poison. They broke up. They fragmented. They fought with each other. Do you remember that? Why? Because whatever fills your heart affects the mouth. If what fills your heart is pride and reputation and status and approval and money and all that sort of thing, what will happen is your speech goes bad.
The Pentecost was the reversal of the curse of Babel. When they saw the beauty of what Jesus Christ had done, their hearts were filled with praise and it healed their speech. Why? How would it heal their speech? Here’s why. They weren’t just praising God in general; they were praising God for what he’d done in Jesus Christ, and what he’d done in Jesus Christ was bring truth and love together on the cross. Why did Jesus die? Was it because of truth or was it because of love? Yes! Did he die because God is truth and God is holy and God is just and wrath on sin must be satisfied? Yes! Or did he die because he loved us and he didn’t want to punish us and because he wanted us to be saved and his heart was filled with mercy? Yes! There is the ultimate example of truth and love at once. But not only that, the reason their hearts were filled with praise on that day by the power of the Holy Spirit was that they understood what Jesus Christ had really done for them on the cross. When Jesus Christ called out to the Father on the cross, what happened? Silence. You know, solitary confinement is torture. Do you know why? Because we’re made in the image of God, and we need words like we need food. Solitary confinement is torture, and on the cross Jesus Christ got cosmic, ultimate solitary confinement. He got the silence of God. Why? It’s what we deserve, it’s what we deserve for the abuse of our wonderful gift of speech, but Jesus Christ got the silence we deserve, the punishment we deserve, so we could get the word he deserved. What is that word? The word from God that comes down and says, “This is my beloved child in whom I am well pleased.” When you believe in Jesus Christ ( says), you’re adopted. and say the Holy Spirit comes into our heart crying, “This is my beloved child in whom I’m well pleased.” If that word comes into the center of your being, it doesn’t matter what your father has said about you or what your mother has said about you or what anybody else has said about you. Your heart now is filled with the sense of the beauty of what Jesus Christ did for you, and now your words will be healed because you don’t care about your reputation the way you did before. You don’t care about what people think about you like you did before. Approval, reputation … those things don’t matter. All that matters is the beauty of what Jesus did. He took the silence you deserve so we could get that word in the center of our being, that God loves us. That’ll heal your heart. That’ll heal your words. Let’s pray.
One of the things you’ll find out in marriage (one of the things Kathy and I discovered) is, when you’re really living together, you can hear the other person sort of fudge on the truth a little bit, sort of spin a little bit. We noticed I tend to spin the truth more when I’m afraid of hurting somebody’s feelings, though I don’t mind being inconvenienced. Kathy is much, much more likely to spin the truth when she’s being inconvenienced because she doesn’t really care that much about people’s approval. In other words, the reason I lie (let me just stop talking about her, because she’s not up here) is because at the moment, at that very moment, people’s approval is the most important thing to me. It’s my functional salvation. My heart is filled with a need for looking good, or I wouldn’t lie. Every lie comes because your heart is filled with something, which at that point is the most important thing to you. It’s a functional savior. It’s a functional salvation. All of our heart problems … all of them … become words problems. All of our word problems come from what fills the heart. How can we actually heal our words? The answer is Pentecost. Did you know across the world in the Western churches, this is Pentecost Sunday? It’s a particular Sunday after Easter. In the more liturgical churches, it is a little bigger deal than it is at Redeemer, but I’m telling you about it anyway. This is Pentecost Sunday. Do you know what’s interesting about ? When the Holy Spirit in came down on the people, the first thing that was healed was their tongues. Their speech was affected. They became so incredibly eloquent, even if you didn’t know their language and even if they didn’t know your language, you heard a word. They perfectly expressed themselves from the inside. The listeners heard a perfect word from the outside. Why? Because the Holy Spirit had filled their hearts with something new. and Pentecost is the reversal of the curse of Babel. Do you remember what happened in ? Because the people’s hearts were filled with making a name for themselves, they wanted to make a name for themselves (self-glorification) … Because their hearts were filled with self-glorification, language didn’t work at Babel. They couldn’t express themselves in a way they were understood. Nobody could understand the word from inside. Nobody could receive a word from the outside. Language broke down, but in , we’re told, at Pentecost, their language was healed because their hearts were filled with something. It’s out of what fills the heart that the mouth speaks. What were their hearts filled with? They were filled with Jesus. When Jesus came into the world, , says, “Never man spake like this man.” No one ever used language like Jesus. Go and look at everything Jesus ever said. Not one unnecessary word. Not one unapt word. Not one unkind word. Not one untruthful word. No one ever spoke like Jesus spoke, but it was more than that. Jesus Christ wasn’t just a great example of speaking. Jesus Christ, according to the Bible, is the Word. He’s the Word of God. In fact, in , if you were here, he’s the final Word. God has spoken in many times and many places, but he has spoken to us finally in his Son. Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega. What does that mean? He’s the whole dictionary. He’s the whole lexicon. He’s the whole alphabet. He is the Word and the only Word that will satisfy the infinite word hunger of our human souls. Why? Why is he the ultimate Word? Why is he the only thing that will heal our hearts and, therefore, our mouths? The answer is, when Jesus Christ went on the cross, he got the ultimate silent treatment. When he said, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” he might as well have said, “Why aren’t you speaking to me? I’m crying to you.” There was a complete breakdown of language between the Father and the Son. He got the cosmic silent treatment. Oh, my goodness! Think of what that was like. You say, “Why?” You and I have been abusing each other with our language for so long and we have made such a muck of our society because of our words, the way in which we’ve slashed each other with our words, the swords of our words, we deserve the silent treatment. We deserve that, but Jesus got it for us. Because Jesus Christ received the ultimate silent treatment, you and I can get the word from outside that our hearts need more than any other word. “You are my beloved child. With you I am well pleased.” Do you remember when Jesus was baptized? The Holy Spirit came down. That’s what Pentecost is. What does the Holy Spirit do? The Holy Spirit comes down on Jesus, and he heard God say, “You are my beloved Son, in whom I am [delighted].” But Paul has the audacity to say in , “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” That is to say, unlike religion, unlike the other religions that say, “If you live a good enough life, maybe when you get to the end of life God might accept you into heaven.” No! Through the Holy Spirit, because Jesus got the silent treatment for you, because he took the penalty for you, you can hear the one word from outside we need, the only word that will heal our hearts and our mouths. That is to hear now God say to you, “I am delighted in you. You are my child.” If you hear that, to the degree that it resonates in your soul, to that degree you don’t need to lie anymore. You don’t need to slash people anymore. Finally, you are free to tell truth and to hear the truth, because you have received the ultimate Word of God through Jesus. Maybe some of you are saying, “I’m just not eloquent.” Ha! So what? Jesus Christ, one day when everybody was saying, “Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna!” and some of the people said, “Will you stop your followers yelling, ‘Hosanna’?” Jesus Christ said, “If they would stop saying, ‘Hosanna!” the stones will cry out.” You could be a stone, but if you know who he is and his Holy Spirit has come into your life, your words will be truthful and kind and apt and beautiful. Let us pray.
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