Updated: Mar 11, 2020
The mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A heart full of anger, bitterness, and fear will leak poison into our words. On the flip side, when our hearts are pure and filled with the love of Jesus, our words will be kind, uplifting, and full of grace. The Bible tells us repeatedly to use our words in a way that will be beneficial to the hearer.
The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Proverbs 12:18
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1
Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Proverbs 16:24
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29
If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. James 1:26
We know the way God says we are supposed to live but why is it so hard to live this way? Why do we struggle so much with the words that we say? Why is it so difficult to control our tongues? Jesus revealed the answer as He spoke to the Pharisees(religious leaders of His day). He rebuked them because they seemed outwardly to be righteous and holy, yet inwardly they were full of hypocrisy, greed, and self-indulgence. He reminded them that what was on the inside would eventually seep out.
In this same way, we can clean ourselves up to appear virtuous on the outside, yet if we do not address the inside it will be to no avail. We must store up good treasures in our hearts. Our behavior starts in the heart, then migrates to thought and action. So how do we store this good treasure? How do we stockpile an abundance of goodness in our hearts so that it will overflow into our words?
We must allow Jesus to fill our hearts
As He spoke to the Pharisees, Jesus used the analogy of a cup to illustrate the necessity of having a heart right with God. The Pharisees looked shiny and perfect on the outside, just as a cup would sparkle and gleam when freshly washed. Yet, if the inside of the cup never got scrubbed, cleanliness was only an illusion.
In this same way, when we try to control our own thoughts, words, and actions without being cleansed on the inside by God, our hypocrisy will eventually surface. The evil that resides in our hearts will ultimately leak out. Jesus came to cleanse us from the inside out. When we place our faith in Him for forgiveness of sins and make Him Lord and Savior of our lives, He washes us clean. His Holy Spirit takes up residence inside of us and empowers us with everything we need to live a life that is pleasing to Him, a life marked with kindness, goodness, love, and self-control.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10
We must be conscious of our thoughts
What we think about often comes out in our words. When we allow our thoughts to be filled with negativity and consumed with anger and bitterness our words will follow suit. It is impossible to think negative thoughts constantly and then produce positive words.
If we are always thinking about what is wrong with the world or focusing on the temporal, our words will not be filled with the hope of Jesus. If we constantly think badly about others, our words will not shine with the love of God. We must refuse to entertain thoughts that are sinful, evil, angry, or bitter.
When that person who has betrayed us comes to our mind, what do we think? Do we nurture thoughts of unforgiveness and anger, replaying hurts over and over again in our minds? Or do we release that person to God, believe the best about them, and pray for their well-being?
Thinking angry thoughts about others will lead to speaking hurtful words. On the other hand, when we have love-filled thoughts towards others, that love will be evident when we speak to them or about them.
Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable , whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8
We must properly deal with our emotions
This is where I struggle the most. I tend to stuff my emotions inside much more than I should and eventually those emotions come out, in ways unintended. For example, I sometimes see things that worry or upset me and instead of immediately giving that worry to God I ignore it. I push it down and hope it goes away. Yet, that negativity is still there, and so it will spill out in the way I talk to my husband or the way I talk to my children. I become more easily agitated and annoyed. My patience levels run thin.
Yes, my children might be doing annoying things. Yes, my husband might have said something to upset me. Yet, the real issue is not what is going on around me, it is what’s going on inside of me. I’m worried. I’m fearful. I’m upset. I chose to ignore what was bothering me rather than to release my burden to God and allow Him to give me His promised rest and strength. In so doing, this causes me to lash out at others.
Can you relate? Are you also an emotional stuffer? What we stuff inside will always spill out. Whether it’s anger, fear, or any number of other negative emotions, the only healthy way to deal is to give it all to God. He will be faithful to deliver His peace and guidance towards healing of our emotions.
Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7
Above all, the absolute best way for us to store up good treasure is to spend time with Giver of everything good. Jesus uses the analogy of a fruitful vine to describe this relationship. The vine supplies every ounce of support and nourishment that the branches need to survive and thrive. The branch stays connected to the vine and bears much fruit.
Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. In the same way that the branch cannot bear fruit apart from the vine, we cannot cultivate an abundance of goodness in our hearts without being connected to Jesus. Abiding in Him by communing with Him, obeying Him, and depending on Him for our every need will be a catalyst for good fruit to be produced in our lives. Spending time in prayer and Bible reading will nourish our souls in such a way that will be evident to everyone around us. Our hearts will be filled with His love and, by His Spirit, our words will overflow with His grace.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23a