Words matter. The prophet Ezekiel knew his words matter, but the LORD wanted Ezekiel to speak only what he heard from God. The commission Ezekiel had for Israel involved too great a responsibility to leave it up to Ezekiel’s whims. God said to Ezekiel, then, “listen to what I say and warn them for me” (Ezekiel 33:7). When we speak to someone, send a text or email, or post comments on social media or articles, do we first ask God our Father what He is saying? We need to realize that our words really do include not only what we say with our mouths, but also what we type with our fingers or send with a press of the thumb. And, we will give an account of the words we speak or text or type or send out on social media. Jesus Christ said this about the importance of our words:
A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak (Matthew 12:35-36)
We will give an account of every idle word. In the Greek, the word translated “idle” can also mean: lazy, thoughtless, unprofitable, and/or injurious. These words of Jesus cause me to get the shivers when I think about my many thoughtless words. Just because we say something behind someone’s back or write something at someone we will never meet, doesn't mean we won’t give an account for those words. And, the Scriptures go on to tell us even more clearly about the importance of our speech.
In the Letter of James we read this about the power of speech:
We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches…Sometimes [our speech] praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God…this is not right (see James 3:3-12).
The Letter of James makes a great point. We praise God with our words in church on Sunday only to then curse people made in his image when we leave. Think about that for a moment. How can we praise God and then curse his creatures? Do we think that just because that other “creature” is a politician we don’t like, that they aren’t made in God’s image and don’t deserve our intercession and prayer?
In Proverbs there are many sayings on speech. I’ll offer just two below. With these sayings we see, again, the power of speech.
The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences (Proverbs 18:21).
Fire goes out without wood, and quarrels disappear when gossip stops (Proverbs 26:20)
With that first proverb, a more literal translation would read that “death and life are in the power of the tongue.” And, the word translated as “gossip” in the second proverb offered can mean both “talebearer” and “whisperer.” We know how powerful the tongue can be even when it whispers, and we know that the power of speech now courses through our finger tips when we type or text. Our speech can be destructive or constructive, it can sow blessings or cut curses into people’s lives, we can wield our language as prophets that edify others in Christ or we can attempt to slay people with our words. When we look at the world around us, do we want to partake in the destruction or in the building up? Do we desire to sow the kingdom of God or cooperate with those forces of evil that work through the perversion of our words by talebearing whispers? And, how do we heal our speech when malicious words so easily flow from our lips and thumbs in times of fear and anxiety?
In Luke 6:45 Jesus says words similar to those of Matthew 12:35-36 that reveal how we can find a wellspring of mercy in our speech: “What you say flows from what is in your heart” (Luke 6:45). So, what do your words say about what is in your heart? Another translation of Luke 6:45 reads: “from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.” My translation would read: “from the fullness of the heart the thumbs text” or “from the fullness of the heart the hands leave a comment” or “from the fullness of the heart we talk about politics.” If our words overflow from our hearts, revealing what our hearts are full of, what does our speech, whether with family, behind someone’s back, online, on social media, etc. show as the overflow of our hearts? Do our words reveal that we are full of anxiety or faith, accusation or blessing, curses or edification? Because the truth is that if our speech reveals a heart full of malice and sin, then we need something deeper than a bit in our mouth like the horse in James 3:3, we need spiritual heart surgery. And, this is exactly what Jesus knows we need and promises.
Through the prophets, the LORD revealed His desires for our salvation, and it meant a lot more than just getting into heaven…“hopefully.” In Ezekiel 36:25-27 we have a prophecy from the Holy Spirit about God’s salvation:
Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.
Salvation is about a cleansing of the heart. And, God promises that the Messiah would bring a renewal in God’s Holy Spirit.
It shall come to pass, I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions… (Joel 3:1).
In Acts 2:17, Peter proclaims that that prophecy of Joel took place on Pentecost. And, so we see that Jesus not only desires that our speech conform to his life and truth, but that he desires the Holy Spirit to purify our hearts. Adding more rules or compelling stricter regulations on ourselves won’t solve the problem, because it isn’t a rule issue, it is a heart issue. We need new hearts and Jesus with his Holy Spirit alone ensures this healing of the heart called salvation.
Does your heart need healing? Here’s another way to put it: What does your speech reveal about what fills your heart? If we need to repent of foul words that sow curses and fear and accusation, great! Repent! Those evils and sins only create prisons of anger, hopelessness, and division. Who wants that?! We don’t need to live like the rest of the world who think that self-righteousness permits curses and foulness reveals “freedom,” they do neither. Jesus offers us an abundant life that flows from the wellspring of his Holy Spirit. Ask Jesus for forgiveness. Get to Confession. And, ask the Father for the Holy Spirit to fulfill Ezekiel’s and Joel’s prophecy in you (Luke 11:13). Our heavenly Father loves to give good gifts to His children. And, what better gift could we ask for than a renewed heart that brings forth His kingdom through our Christ-filled speech?