(Jesus said) "But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone." Matthew 15:18-20
We all know, at least everyone should know, our words often make a difference. As a result, believers should pick their words most carefully.
Here's a quick example. Years ago our church was having a picnic. When most of the kids were already done and at play, I saw a two-year-old still sitting on his mother's lap. Mom was busy trying to convince little Nathanael (the name is changed to protect the innocent), that he should eat his hot dog.
She urged and then he would hesitate. She pleaded and he shilly-shallied. She bribed and he procrastinated. Mom begged, mom pleaded, and then mom bribed. Yes, when all else had failed, mom tried to bribe her little one. This she did by bringing out her secret weapon: a cookie.
Nathanael loved cookies.
Using the wisdom of Solomon, Mom decreed, "Nathanael, you can have the cookie when there is no more hot dog left on your plate." Nathanael's gears turned, for I would guess, no more than three or four seconds. Then a light went on in his brain and, with the grace of an Olympic gymnast, he swept his arm across his plate. The hot dog took flight and landed on the ground ten feet away.
Laughing, Nathanael declared, "Look, mommy, no more hot dog." Mother's face fell as she realized her son was the victor because she hadn't chosen her words carefully. (I can tell you that embarrassing experience was one mom made sure never happened again.)
Now that true story is just a hopefully amusing way of driving home a point the Savior was making. He wanted people, especially His people, to realize that our words reflect our thoughts. When our words are foul, they reflect a heart which is tainted.
And if you're wondering what is meant by the word tainted, Jesus explains. A person may not ever commit murder, but hateful words show a murderous heart. We may never commit adultery, but suggestive and immoral comments betray what lies within. We may never fall to our knees and worship an idol, but a comfortable disregard for and a casual abuse of the Lord's Name shows we feel comfortable with a disrespect for and disobedience of our Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier.
When our words are callous and cruel, flippant and frivolous, we let the world and all those around us know how little we think of others and how much we think of ourselves. What is worse, when an unbeliever hears a Christian speak with such hurtful words, he is forced to conclude Jesus really hasn't had much of an impact on this individual's mind and heart.
Far better, the Lord would suggest for those who have been saved by Jesus' innocent suffering, death and resurrection to judge their words carefully. Far righter for us to ask, "Does what I am about to say show I love the Lord with all my heart, soul and mind? Will my words show I am speaking about others as I wish them to speak about me?"
If not, maybe we need to choose our words a bit more carefully.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, when I look at the things You said, I am impressed. You spoke words of comfort to the hurting, words of peace to the troubled, and friendship to those who were alone. When You spoke harshly, it was to call people to repentance and compliance with the Father's will. May the things I say reflect a heart that agrees with and tries to follow You. In Your Name I pray it. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries