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Steve Massey: Careful speech is measure of mature Christians

It’s been two months since I climbed the cold, narrow stone steps of Ireland’s Blarney Castle.

And the jury still is out on the veracity of Blarney’s legend, which promises eloquent speech to all who kiss the stone atop the castle tower. Kiss Blarney stone, the Irish say, and get the gift of gab.

It occurred to me after kissing that stone – a decision of which I am not especially proud – that very few of us actually need this gift.

Regrettably, we’re born with the gift of gab. Most of us gab far too much; and whatever we lack in eloquence we gladly make up for in sheer volume of words.

The Bible suggests this is not so much a gift as a liability.

“In the multitude of words sin is not lacking,” says Proverbs 10:19, “but he who restrains his lips is wise.”

Another proverb says “Do you see a man hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”

Words have a way of showcasing the kind of person we really are – for better, or worse. Are we quick to gossip, flatter, grumble, criticize? Such words among Christians betray hearts out of sync with the heart of God.

Scripture compels us to ask ourselves: How big an opening do I need in a conversation to start gossiping? How big an insult must I receive before I return fire with my own unkind words? How long a pause must there be in conversation before I fill the airtime with thoughtless, and therefore careless, words?

I don’t like these questions, either. I struggle to speak rightly, especially in casual settings. But like it or not, my mouth is a spiritual barometer of what really is going on in my heart. Yours is too.

In fact, speech is so prone to be dominated by self-centered human nature that the Bible points to the controlled tongue as the very height of spiritual maturity. “If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man …,” says James 3:2.

Did you catch that? Truly mature Christians are not measured by Bible knowledge or church attendance or their fight for social change, but by their careful, controlled, truthful, encouraging speech.

All of us have experienced the pain of receiving, or giving, words that hurt. It takes no thought whatsoever to say behind someone’s back what we would never say to their face (gossip), or say to their face what we would never say behind their back (flattery).

No need to dwell on that; so much the better to be influenced by God’s nature and allow our words to season relationships with blessing.

Proverbs 15:23 (New Living Testament) says, “It is wonderful to say the right thing at the right time …”

How can we know how to say the right thing at the right time?

As always, we can look to the example of Jesus Christ, who spent much time in prayer – fellowship with God the Father.

Isaiah 50:4 describes Christ’s relationship with the Father and its impact on his words: “The Lord God has given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season.”

As we spend time meditating on Scripture, and in prayer, and allow our minds to be filled with God’s thoughts – as opposed to what comes naturally to us – we’ll increasingly know what words to speak, and when to speak them.

I’ve seen no proof that Blarney stone has any power to influence words.

But God does – if we’ll yield control of them to him.

Steve Massey is pastor of Hayden Bible Church (www.haydenbible.org). He can be reached at (208) 772-2511 or steve@haydenbible.org.


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