Monday, June 18, 2012

Speaking of Speaking....

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.  
- Proverbs 18:21

Let this serve as another confession:  I tend to talk too much.  I remember once (and only once!) eloquently espousing the benefits of natural childbirth to some women at a beach party in East Hampton.  It only took watching one documentary for me to foolishly believe myself an authority on the matter.  I somehow felt I had license to preach to new and expectant mothers that night.   Later, I noticed across the sand a group of women surrounding Megan saying, "you need to tell your husband to get hold of his tongue!"  Let me sum up the car ride home: tense.

The all of me (including my speech!) is a work in progress by the power of God's grace.   These days I give myself about three minutes in our Sunday School class when talking to the opposite sex.   After the third minute I step away from the conversation guided by the knowledge that somewhere in the fourth minute I will inevitably insert foot in mouth.

Simply scan the headlines; foolish speech abounds.  It's a rare thing to read a headline like "Mr. so and so said something extremely insightful at a White House Dinner last night".   More often than not careless or hateful speech sends people free-falling through the blood-thirsty media's ringer.

A persons words do indeed reveal what is already taking place within them.  After Jesus drove demons from a blind and mute man so that he could both talk and see, The Pharisees told the crowds that He drove out the demons by the power of Beelzebub (literally The Lord of the Flies, referring to the false God Baal, whom The Jews thought of as a pile of dung and his followers, the flies).  It's no wonder then that Jesus returns to them a stinging sermon of rebuke...

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.” 
- Matthew 12:34

The Pharisee's words had revealed the attitude of their hardened hearts.   So darkened were their minds they thought Christ to be of the Devil when he was God's very Son.   These same men would lead the call for Christ's crucifixion. Their words revealed their intentions and consequently, their coming condemnation.

President Obama had what many construed to be a terrible week a couple of weeks ago based on his simple but profoundly debatable comment in a press conference that "the private economy is doing fine".   The tide of an election and, indeed, the direction of a nation can turn based on the utterance of words.   In The Book of James, the apostle writes that a tiny rudder moves a big ship (James 3:4).

There's a super-natural  (creative and/or destructive) power at work through words in relationships and the circumstances into which they're spoken.   "I'd like to rescind that statement" or "I didn't mean to say that, I'd like to take those words back" fails even in its truest intentions.   Once spoken there is no amount of backpedaling that can undo the harmful and potentially disastrous effects of speech.

Conversely, words can bring (read: impute) life to the deadest of scenarios.   For instance a word of encouragement from a wife lifts a husband who is depressed by his helplessness to control the circumstances of his life.  A compliment from a husband goes a long way towards deepening a wife's sense of self.  Encouraged that, regardless of what anyone around her thinks of her, her husband finds her attractive she can then move out into the world in confident beauty.   Relationally there is no denying the sometimes devastating, sometimes liberating power of words.

Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.  The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison
- James 3:5-8

If no man can tame the tongue, then man has reached a perilous impasse (me included!).   Men and women, who continually suffer the consequences of careless talk, participate in hurtful gossip or dole out the destruction of mean-spirited speech find themselves in a dire predicament relationally.   Nowhere short of falling at the mercy and grace of a God who brings light to the darkness (Job 12:22) and who gives wisdom to the wise man's heart guiding his mouth to bring instruction from his lips (Prov 16:22) will we find deliverance.

The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood. 
- John 7:18

The Bible understands original sin, total depravity and man's bound-will.    The Bible understands that without aid from The Holy Spirit, man cannot help but speak from his own self-absorbed heart and for his own gain (glory) to bring about his desired ends, to convey and control the way others perceive him.   Directing conversations as he wishes or maligning those individuals he naturally perceives as a threat to him or his well-being is the way of fallen man.  False-flattery (or the desire for flattery), manipulation and even vengeance are but a few of the seductive symptoms of Sin that taints even the most well-intentioned speech.   We can look to the Psalms for some description...

For there is no truth in their mouth;
their inmost self is destruction;
their throat is an open grave;
they flatter with their tongue. 
- Psalm 5:9

Everyone utters lies to his neighbor;
with flattering lips and out of  a double heart they speak.
- Psalm 12:2

His speech was smooth as butter,
yet war was in his heart;
his words were softer than oil,
yet they were drawn swords 
- Psalm 55:21

God has given us His very Spirit to reside within us directing our hearts for His glory.   Let us cling then to God who has spoken righteousness over us by His word who became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14), Jesus Christ, who took to the cross all our sin (and sinful speech!).  Having been crucified along with our hearts, mouths and words, let us pray that as we have been resurrected by God in Christ, He would now redeem even our speech that His heart and His words might reign through us to His glory forever and ever.


This Week

* Monday Men's Lunch - Grace in Practice - Chapter 3 -  Dakota's Steakhouse 12pm

* Wednesday AM Book Study - The Explicit Gospel, Chapter 5, 7am - 2 American Center, 5th Floor (Ritcheson Law Firm)

* Sunday - Matt Magill at Green Acres Baptist Church, 9:45 and 11:15  - Tyler, TX

Please pray as we meet with hurting couples in the East Texas area who are in desperate need of God's restoration individually and relationally.