By Drew Zuverink
"Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of."
I like to write notes in my Bible (insert audible gasp*). There, I admitted it, you now know my deepest darkest secret. I love doing this because as I read through scripture I come across notes from the times that I've read that passage before. Here's a note from a younger Drew that I came across while reading our passage for today.
My first temptation was to write, "be careful what you say" but that misses the point entirely. Instead, I must notice what I say because it will reveal what's truly in my heart.
Our hearts must greatly dislike our tongues because they are not very good secret keepers. It's a silly way to imagine this but I picture a heart having a conversation with a tongue that goes something like this...
Heart "Hey tongue, let me tell you a secret but you can't tell anyone else, ok?"
Tongue "Ohhhh sounds juicy! Tell me, I won't say a word!"
Heart "I do not like Sammy from church."
Tongue "Wow that's crazy. HEY EVERYBODY ISN'T SAMMY THE WORST?!"
Heart "Shhh! What are you doing?! That was supposed to stay between you and me!"
We have all had to apologize to someone for something we said. Many of us rationalize our harsh tongues by saying something like this, "I'm sorry that I hurt your feelings. I didn't mean to, it's just, sometimes I get so upset and say things that I don't mean." However, notice how that statement portrays the heart. "My heart is good. Don't read too much into what I said. I didn't mean it. I was overtaken by my emotions. I had no control. Sin overtook me. But that wasn't really me deep down. Deep down my heart is pure."
Jesus seems to disagree with that. Gossip is not just a momentary lapse of judgement, it is an overflow of a heart that is harboring criticism and judgement. Hurtful words wrapped in sarcasm isn't just a joke, perhaps they are an overflow of one's love for attention. Angrily lashing out with words that attack and tear down is not a filter problem, it's a heart problem. Are you harboring pride. hate, or maybe false idols?
The Bible has much to say about our speech. James 3:2 essentially says that if someone can learn to tame their tongue they can do anything. Proverbs 10:19 says if you talk a lot you'll sin a lot. James 1:19 follows that thought further and advises us to be quick to listen and slow to speak. So we should absolutely do our best to have a filter so that we don't just say everything that comes to our mind. We should also learn to tame our tongue and make sure that when we speak we choose words and tones that promote peace. We should also learn to listen more and speak less but if that is all that we do with our tongues, we will leave a major problem unaddressed - our heart.
The answer to our sinful speech is not just to close our mouth so we don't say sinful things anymore. That doesn't do anything to deal with what is causing us to say those sinful things in the first place. We must do our best to notice what we are saying, because if we listen closely enough, our tongues will tell us what's happening in our hearts.
So don't make excuses for what you say anymore. Don't blame your words on someone else's actions. Learn to control your tongue but do more than that. Work on your heart. For if we allow God to work on cleaning up our hearts, then when we open our mouth to speak, gentle words like a tree of life will flow out from it (Proverbs 15:4).