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 Vol. 5, No. 8 

August 2003

Associate Editorial

~ Page 3 ~

The Heart and the Tongue

By Steven P. Smithbauer

Image It has been said, "The pen is mightier than the sword." This is a way of saying that the power of words, for good or evil, is staggering. This being true, the tongue must be mightier than a cannon! Proverbs 6:16-18 outlines what God hates.

These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.

Of these seven abominations, at least three of them deal with sins of the tongue. Someone has also said, "No matter which screw is loose in a man, it is always his tongue that rattles." A loose tongue is symptomatic of a deeper-seated problem. Decades ago old time doctors would check a patient's tongue, and if it were coated, would prescribe castor oil for an ailing liver. They believed a connection existed between the two organs. This, of course, is doubtful today, but spiritually speaking, when we have a problem with the tongue, the heart is always the problem. How does one check for heart problems? Medically, we look for symptoms -- shortness of breath, chest pain, etc. Spiritually speaking we also need to look for the symptoms of heart problems, and they almost always show up in the tongue! Of this connection between the heart and tongue Jesus spoke in Matthew 12:34-37:

O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.

James 3:8-11 also warned:

But the tongue can no man tame; [it is] an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?

When the tongue speaks, we need to remember that our heart is showing. It is advisable for us to heed the wisdom of the following short poem.

Three Golden Gates

If you are tempted to reveal
A tale someone has told
About another, make it pass,
Before you speak, three narrow gates of gold.
These narrow gates: First, "Is it true?"
Then, "Is it needful?" In your mind
Give truthful answer. And the next
Is narrowest: "Is it kind?"
And if to reach your lips at last
It passes through these gateways three,
Then you may tell the tale, nor fear
What the result will be.

Author Unknown

True Words vs. False Words

God desires one whose heart will "Buy the truth and sell it not" (Proverbs 23:23). When it comes down to it, there are really only two classes of people in this world: those who love the truth, and those who do not. The Christian dwells on "Whatsoever things are true..." (Philippians 4:5), but one who spreads falsehoods is displeasing to God. A "lying tongue," "false witness speaking lies" and "He that soweth discord" are among the seven abominations in Proverbs 6. Yet, many are fascinated with spreading rumors, true or false. If we examine further in Proverbs 6:12-15 we find:

A naughty person, a wicked man, walketh with a froward mouth. He winketh with his eyes, he speaketh with his feet, he teacheth with his fingers; Frowardness is in his heart, he deviseth mischief continually; he soweth discord. Therefore shall his calamity come suddenly; suddenly shall he be broken without remedy.

The word "Froward" means false, deceitful. God promises swift punishment to such. Since it is true that sweet and bitter water cannot flow from the same source, what does it say of the heart of one that speaks falsehood? In Ephesians 4:24 Christians are enjoined, "Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another." We are to be known for our honesty. It is one of our attributes! If we are not truthful, this is symptomatic of spiritual heart problems.

Idle Words vs. Profitable Words

Language can be used to accomplish much for good. "For after that in the wisdom of God, the world by [It's own, sps] wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe" (1 Corinthians 1:21). The preaching of the Gospel will save souls, however, there are also words that are useless, and even destructive. They serve no purpose but to subvert, confuse or destroy the faith of others. Paul advised the young preacher of these words in 2 Timothy 2:14-17:

Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers. Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.

Again, a problem in the heart is showing up in the tongue! If Timothy wants to speak profitable words, he must fill his heart with the Scriptures. If words are idle, it is because they are not flowing from a heart well versed in the Word of God. It is appropriate for us to ask ourselves, "Is my heart filled with the 'rightly divided' Word of truth, or with corrupt and idle words to no profit?" Remember Jesus' words in our text, "Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned" (Matthew 12:36-37). It, therefore, behooves us to be more careful in our choice of words. With our tongues, we can covert the sinner and save his soul, or we can cause inconceivable damage to a person's spiritual well-being by a thoughtless idle remark.

Unkind Words vs. Kind Words

Proverbs 11:11 says, "By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted." A kind word of encouragement goes a long way! It is edifying and needful. We all need a "pat on the back" sometimes, but the verse continues, "But it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked." It has been said that the devil has many tools, but the handle that fits all of them is called "discouragement." Proverbs 17:20 tells us, "He that hath a froward heart findeth no good: and he that hath a perverse tongue falleth into mischief." Have you ever known one who could not find anything good to say? It is amazing how many people believe it is their duty to destroy another's self-esteem. We cannot be pleasing to God when we attack others with discouraging words. Where is our heart? Do we desire to build up, or tear down? We can't be both ways, either sweet or bitter. Ephesians 4:29-32 reads:

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.

Remember, " thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned" (Matthew 12:37). Be assured we will be held accountable for the words we speak, and sweet and bitter waters cannot flow from the same source (James 3:11)! Rather than lashing out with our tongues, Christians should be more concerned with how we may use our speech for the furtherance of the Gospel, for edification, and not for destructive purposes, always mindful that our hearts are showing!

God's heart is revealed by his Word and his Son's sacrifice on the cross. Second Peter 3:9 assures us that God is "Not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." Contrary to popular belief, God takes "no pleasure in the death of the wicked" (Ezekiel 33:11). Yet, "Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints" (Psalm 166:15). God notices and cares when one who loves and serves him passes from this life to be with him in eternity. That said, it is a mystery why many will not obey the Gospel.

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