Today’s blog is the fourth in a series of five with Scripture on the importance and impact of our words (see the previous posts). The following verses focus on what Scripture says is the source of our words: our hearts. In other words, it’s not as simple as saying “I didn’t mean it that way” when we say things that dishonor our Lord.
It’s true that Scripture is full of disheartening diagnoses, including that the heart is “desperately sick” (ESV). But the Great Physician must tell us this hard truth so we can say, “Create in me a pure heart, O God” (Psalm 51:10). The Physician also promises, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees” (Ezekiel 36:26-27).
So words that at first sting us deeply don’t mean we’re without hope, only that we cannot cure ourselves. But God has provided the cure: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). As you read what Scripture has to say, let’s remember that the Spirit lives in us and is at work transforming our hearts:
For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34).
But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man “unclean” (Matthew 15:18).
The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart (Luke 6:45).
Every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood (Genesis 8:21).
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)
Create in me a new heart, O God (Psalm 51:10).
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone. I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws (Ezekiel 36:26-27).
For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Hebrews 4:12-13).
A wise man’s heart guides his mouth (Proverbs 16:23).
Here are some related thoughts from Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth:
Hundreds of years ago Francis de Sales said this: “Our words are a faithful index of the state of our souls.” So, you want to know what’s in your heart? Jesus said, “Out of the abundance [or overflow] of the heart, the mouth speaks.”
So if I have a critical heart, what kinds of words are going to come out? Critical words. If I have a mean-spirited heart, what kinds of words are going to come out of my mouth? Mean words, unkind words.
If I have a proud heart, I’m going to speak arrogant words. If I have an unloving heart, I’m going to speak unkind words. A self-centered heart is going to speak selfish words. And when I speak angry words, what does that tell you about my heart? It means I’ve got an angry heart.
If I speak profane words, what does that tell you about my heart? It’s profane. Impatient words come out of an impatient heart. Complaining words come out of a discontented heart. A heart that is selfish is going to talk about what? Self.
I can remember my dad telling us as we were growing up that one of the important things in conversation is not to talk about yourself. He said, “People want to talk about themselves. So ask questions that draw them out.”
As you think about the people you know who have a lot of friends, people that others want to be around, one of the things you’ll notice is that they talk about others. They ask questions about others. They’re not always talking about themselves.
I’m thinking of one Christian leader I know; I saw him just recently, and I made the comment after I left him . . . I’ve talked with him a handful of times over the years, and I said about this man who is the head of a ministry, one of the things I so appreciate about this man is that whenever you see him, he’s not telling you how he’s doing or how his ministry is doing.
He’s asking how you’re doing. He’s asking about your background and your friends and your life. This is a man whose words reveal that he has an unselfish heart. As a result, he’s an encourager. You want to be around him because there’s blessing and an overflow that comes out of that heart.
So let me ask you this: What do your words reveal about your heart?
…If you want your words to change, it’s not enough to focus on changing your speech. What we really need is a heart change.
(Listen to the rest of Nancy’s podcast “The Power of Words.”)
One final thought: if we want our words to have lasting value and impact, and if we want our hearts to continue to be transformed, they need to be touched and shaped by God’s words. That will happen only as we make ongoing daily choices to expose our minds and hearts to Scripture, to meet with Christ, and to let Him rub off on us.
“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, LORD, my rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14, CSB).
Photo by Martin Jernberg on Unsplash
Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries.