“You brood of snakes! How could evil men like you speak what is good and right? For whatever is in your heart determines what you say.” (Matthew 12:34 NLT)
Harsh words. Perhaps what makes it worse is that Jesus is actually speaking to the spiritual elite, the Pharisees. These are people who know all about the law of God. In fact, they know it so well that they devised more laws just to keep people as far as possible from breaking the original laws. Yet still there hearts were not right and Jesus points this out to them by showing them their speech. The words they spoke were hateful and condemning while they professed to love God. The thing is, it can’t work both ways. I’m discouraged to see how some Christians are living their verbal lives.
I was recently encouraged by my friend and mentor Matt Ross (worship pastor at Pike’s Peak Christian Church) to be bold for Christ. So, to put his advice into action, let me make a bold statement: What you say is a direct reflection of what is in your heart. (Not my words, Jesus’, again see Matthew 12:34) I know that it’s not easy to reign in your tongue, especially if foul language was a big part of your speech prior to coming to Jesus. But as Christians, we are called to watch what we say.
As far as I can tell, there’s three main areas where we fall short as Christians in regards to our speech: Complaining, Cursing, and Crassness. Some people only struggle with one or two of these, some with all three. Either way, I want to show you a couple of verses regarding these. Remember, I am not condemning, in fact, I struggle with one myself: Complaining. That’s why I put it first on our list.
I’ve written about this subject before and my struggles with it. I find myself complaining sometimes about the most insignificant of things. I allow myself to get overwhelmed with life and then I can do nothing but complain about everything. Paul talks about his in his letter to the Philippians.
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” (Philippians 4:6 NLT) It’s pretty clear in this verse that we are to be thankful for everything God has done in our lives. But the opposite of thankfulness is complaining. You can’t do both at the same time. Try it! There’s no possible way to earnestly thank God for something while at the same time whining about it.
As I have said before, this is my biggest area of struggle. There’s nothing easy about it. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t supposed to try. I often fail and find myself whining or complaining about something, but the Lord is faithful to convict me and bring me to a place of repentance.
I am shocked and amazed at how much foul language has polluted our Christian culture. It’s gotten so bad that there are some pastors who openly curse from the pulpit just to be more relatable to the culture. Here’s a news flash for you: “DON’T COPY THE BEHAVIORS AND CUSTOMS OF THIS WORLD.” (Romans 12:2 NLT) Are you kidding me? God calls us to be holy and separate from the world and Christians are trying to do everything they can to blend in with the culture. Christianity is not guerilla warfare! We are called to be a shining light, an example of His glory. (Matthew 5:14) We are told to be the city on the hill that can’t be hid. We shouldn’t be slinking down into the background, hoping to not offend people by standing up for God. But are we just offending God by standing up for our rights to be a part of this wicked world?
“Sometimes it (our tongue) praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!” (James 3:9-10 NLT)
How can we fulfill the two greatest commandments of loving God and loving others if we are cursing others and speaking against those who God created?
“Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” (Ephesians 4:29 NLT)
Remember the old adage, if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all? I wish that more Christians would heed this advice. If you spew curse words and demeaning speech from your mouth, polluting the air with the words of the world, are you building people up? Are you encouraging those around you? If not, then keep your lips together. How can you claim to spread the Word of God out of the same mouth that sprays filth?
“So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, (or say) do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31 NLT)
The dictionary defines crassness as: so crude and unrefined as to be lacking in discrimination and sensibility. When we hear or see something crude are we drawn to it? Do we then turn around and share it with our friends?
What we really need is a filter. Not a moral filter, not an ethical filter, but a Jesus filter. We are called to have the same mind as Christ. (Philippians 2:5) If Jesus wouldn’t say it, then neither should we. Remember, it’s our job to build others up with our words, not lead them into temptation and cause them to sin by forcing them to hear the evil that comes from our mouths.
I realize that this post sounds harsh and I’m sure that there are those of you who agree whole-heartedly with what the Bible tells us to do. But I am just as sure that there are those who will read this and feel as though I am trying to infringe on their Christian liberty to speak how they wish. Either way, your actions are accountable to God, not me.
What I have provided here is not my opinion, but the very words of God regarding how we are to speak. So it is my fervent prayer that all Christians will heed this article and begin to change what they say, so as to constantly bring glory to God and stand as a shining light for all the world to see, and bring them to a saving knowledge of Christ. Amen.