Day 16: Speech
Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
and those who love it will eat its fruits.
While reading The Pilgrim’s Progress as a family, we came upon the characters Faithful and Talkative. “What is Talkative’s personality?” one son asked.
“He talks a lot,” I answered, “Do you think that’s good or bad?”
Thinking for a moment, he replied noncommittally, “Well, he could be a pastor.”
I suppose many a pastor could be characterized as talkative, yet every one of us must examine our speech. Words have the power of “death and life” (Prov. 18:21), to hurt and to heal, to wreck and restore. We can harm a neighbor with deception (25:18), anger (29:22), gossip or slander (16:27-28), babbling words (15:2b; 21:23; 29:20), flattery (29:5), and scoffing (29:8a). Yet the struggle is not in our vocal chords or on our lips, because word problems reveal heart problems (Luke 6:45). The mouth is merely the tunnel through which depravity escapes (Matt. 15:18-19). For this reason, Proverbs often connects the heart with speech. Only after you guard your heart (Prov. 4:23), will you “put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you” (v. 24).
Dads, you may try to shift the blame: “You made me angry.” “I only lied because I felt trapped.” “I couldn’t help myself.” “I didn’t mean to say those words.” Yet you cannot blame your speech on the people or circumstances around you. Those influences simply trigger the occasion for your heart to reveal itself in words. So in addition to removing those triggers, you must receive a transformed heart. Communication is not primarily a skill to be learned, but a matter of worship. The one who holds your heart is the one your words will honor.
Now you cannot accomplish this godly communication by human effort (see 20:9; Jas. 3:5-8), but only by the supernatural power of Christ—the Living Word (John 1:14). Christ alone grants the hope of a transformed heart (Ezek. 36:25-27), the riches of every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Eph. 1:3), and divine power granting to you all things pertaining to life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3). Christ alone is the sovereign King who rules not only the entire universe, but also your heart and tongue. He rose from the dead and was appointed Ruler of all, so he can certainly empower you to speak with grace (Rom. 8:11).
Dads, the only way to gain victory over speech is to acknowledge Christ as Lord. Begin by trusting his sovereign plan (Prov. 16:1-4), for no situation, circumstance, or relationship escapes his charge. He rules your life, directing all things for his glory and your redemptive good (Rom. 8:28). Thus the war of words is a war of worship, because whoever rules your heart will control the words you speak. The gospel exhorts you to examine your words regularly in the mirror of God’s Word (Jas. 1:22-25). Take time to study Proverbs and evaluate your communication: “Are my speech patterns godly or self-serving?” The kindness of God will convict your heart of sinful motives and lead you to repent.
Now perhaps you feel defeated in your struggle with speech. You play back the recording of this past week and hear yourself using words profanely. Begin by humbly recognizing that sinful speech arises from an idolatrous heart. You lie and cheat, complain and quarrel, implode and explode as you defend your kingdom of self. You flatter and cajole, manipulate and sweeten, and say what people want to benefit the kingdom in your heart. For example, I can speak harshly to my children from impatience. They’re making me late, or disrupting my comfort, or not respecting my authority. My children are not submitting to my kingship in the home. In those moments, I must confess my impatient heart: “Lord, I have not been trusting you as sovereign in my family and in my home. Lord, you are in control. You sovereignly ordained these unruly rugrats for my sanctification and their instruction. Lord, forgive my selfish heart and my impatient speech.”
Once you confess the heart behind the struggle, then commit to godly change. Ask yourself pointed questions: “Do I speak from a compassionate heart?” “Do people characterize my speech as kind and humble, patient and meek?” “Do I tend to attack or forgive?” “Am I grateful or grumbling?” “Are my words seeped in Christ-like love?” “Do I do all things, in word and deed, to the glory of Christ” (Col. 3:17)? Christ transforms you into his ambassador who will speak not your words, but the message of your King (2 Cor. 5:11-21). So enter every conversation asking, “How can I glorify God and serve this other person?” “How can I be an ambassador for Christ?” Each word you speak is a witness for Jesus, so speak words that help instead of harm. Meditate on God’s Word to change your words (Prov. 10:11, 21; 11:30; 12:6, 18, 25; 13:14; 15:1, 18, 23, 28; 16:20-24; 18:4; 21:23; 25:11-12; 27:5-6, 9, 11-12). The goal of godly speech is to glorify Christ and to serve the people around you.
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, Transform my heart and reform my speech. Guard my tongue from sin and teach me to communicate only edifying words. Show me how to be a right representative of your kingdom and to only express the message of my King. In your Son’s name, Amen.
LifeWork: Write down one way you will apply today’s Proverb.
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