Text: James 3:7-9 and Proverbs
Title: If Walls Have Ears
Theme: Theme: Since human words have the power to kill and give life, therefore with God's help we are to discipline and control our tongue.
These past few years, the western pop culture is very much into the reality shows. We want to know what is spoken, what occurred at this very moment. There was the Osborne family show, with a TV camera in their house for several months, taping everything that happened in that household; including the almost non-stop language that is not appropriate for the TV audience. Can you imagine a TV camera in your home, taping every conversation you have? Would you do this? I don't think so.
Now, what if the walls at home have ears; what would they have heard?
The conversations between the husbands and wives could be something like this:
"You never listen to what I have to say."
"You are so selfish; you only think of yourself."
"You never care for how I feel. Even that stranger was asking me how I felt when I was stranded in the highway."
"You have hurt me so many times. Your sorry doesn't mean a thing to me. I am moving out."
"If you touch me again, I will call the police."
"You are always late. You seldom come home before 11pm. I don't know if I can trust you anymore."
"Since we got married, you have never washed the dishes after dinner. I do all the cooking and cleaning in this house."
"You are always complaining. You don't know how blessed you are to have a husband like me."
"You always complain to others that I don't spend enough time at home. Do you know how much pressure I have at work?"
"How come you made so many calls to this number? I have the right to know who that person is."
"I really can't stand you anymore. Everyday I work my butt off, but when I come home, the house is a mess and you are always sleeping. Why can't you be like xx's wife?"
"Why can't you be like XX's husband, making so much money that they can live in that huge mansion?"
"You are always angry. Every little thing can cause you to explode like a volcano. I don't know how long I can stand this."
"If you do this again, I'll divorce you."
"Lately I realized I don't know you anymore. You are not the person I married 15 years ago. I feel that your heart is not here anymore."
"Look at our kids, its all because you don't know how to discipline them."
"You are good for nothing. You only know how to spend money. You are like a parasite in this family."
The conversations between parents and children can be something like this:
Parents to children:
"how many time do I have to tell you to clean up your room? Are you deaf?"
"How stupid can you be?"
"Such work is not acceptable in this family. Next time I want to see all A's"
"Look, why can't you be like John, he behaves and studies well. Why can't you be smart like him?"
"Go look into the mirror, you are like an ugly duckling."
"You are not going to accomplish anything great. You can't study well; you will never be able to find a decent job."
Children to parents:
"No, I don't know."
Certainly some of these statements may be exaggerated, but they do sound familiar, right? Inappropriate words ruin relationships. It alienates husbands from the wives and parents from children. Wrong words can cause a child and adult to have poor self esteem. Often it will take years to undo the mistakes. Words heard are hard to rid from our memory. We often remember words spoken 30 or 40 years ago.
Listening to the above conversations, it helps us understand what our lord, Jesus Christ said in Matthew 15:18-20, "But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person…" Apostle James further echoed Jesus' teaching, James 3:7-9, "For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.?"Then there are also these words of wisdom from Proverbs.
Proverbs 18:20-21, "From the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach is satisfied; he is satisfied by the yield of his lips. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. "
James 1:26, "If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless."
God's word tells us that the most powerful organ in our body is the tongue. It has the power to defile, dehumanize and destroy a person. Words hurt a person's spirit. The damage words can do to a person sometimes is greater than a stick. Moreover, the scripture also tells us if we think we are holy, we have a close relationship with God; let it be reflected in your speech. Our speech reflects our inner quality. Therefore, the challenge before us is to control our tongue; to discipline ourselves to speak the right and appropriate words. Not just at home, but at church, work and study.
I. Characteristics of speeches pleasing to God.
Again, we turn to Proverbs for insight and help. First we want to focus on characteristics of speeches that God loves:
Honesty. Pro 24:26, "Whoever gives an honest answer kisses the lips. " 14:25, "A truthful witness saves lives, but one who breathes out lies is deceitful." God wants us to speak words of honesty; what is true. Avoid those beating around the bush, half truth statements. In Jesus' words, let our yes be yes and no be no. In marriage, one of the wife's most basic need is that her husband is honest to her. A need only the husband can fulfill.
Fewness of words. 13:3,"Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin." 10:19, "When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. " 11:12, "Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent." 17:28, "Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent." What do these words tell us? Discipline our tongue so we won't talk too much. We all like to express our opinions, right? But there are times; we should just keep them to ourselves. I often say to myself, no one will call me stupid if I keep mouth shut. The older I get, the more I realize that what is important is not what I think. Rather what does God say about this?
Calmness. 15:1, "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." 17:27, "Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding." Keep it cool. It is so easy and natural for us to get all excited when we are in a heated argument. We raise our voices and begin to yell back at others. The scripture tells us to calm down, maintain our level headedness. Yelling and pointing fingers at each other will not solve the problems.
Aptness. 25:20, "Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on soda." 25:11, "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver." 27:14, "Whoever blesses his neighbor with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, will be counted as cursing." These and many other proverbs tell us the need to know when to speak the right words at the right time. For example, in a funeral, don't say to the grieving family, "don't cry. He is better off up there." Instead, 'We'll all miss him." Or calling your friends up at 6:30AM and ask how you can pray for him/her. Think before we speak. If we don't know what to say, silence is gold.
Constructive. 16:24, "Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body." 12:25, "Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad." Gracious and kind words will build up a person; brings healing into his/life. As parents, especially Asians, sometimes we have the tendency of being overly critical of our children. We only pick on the problems and mistakes. Because many of us grew up in families with few positive words, so we don't know how to speak constructive and encouraging words to our children. It is a vicious cycle. We don't have to continue that cycle. We can break the cycle by learning how to speak words that are pleasing to God and building up our family.
II. Characteristics of speeches that are not pleasing to God. Now let's take a look at words, speeches not pleasing to God.
1. Speech about others.
Gossip. 18:8, "The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body." 26:20, "For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases." 10:18, "The one who conceals hatred has lying lips, and whoever utters slander is a fool." Don't gossip. Don't pass on that which is not true or could cast a doubt on that person's character and credibility. It is not right to speak about others with the intention of ruining his/her reputation.
Spreading dissension. 17:14,19, "The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out.19. Whoever loves transgression loves strife; he who makes his door high seeks destruction." When there is a dispute, we want to be understood, so we keep on explaining to more and more people. This is how different factions begin to form, that could lead to the splitting of the church or fellowship groups.
Talking instead of doing. 14:23, "In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty." When we talk without first thinking, it is easy to forget afterwards. If it happens often enough, no one will take our words seriously. Many of us have heard our spouse and children say, You never keep your promises. This hurts, right? Think before we speak. If we can't carry out the promise, don't say it. If we do promise, do it.
Ignorant speech. 18:17, "The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him." this verse tells us that when there is a dispute, make sure we hear both sides of the story, before drawing any conclusions. Many times I find myself in situations where after listening to the wife's side of the story I get so mad at the husband. And then the next day the husband tells me his side of the story, and I can get mad at his wife. I am confused. So I learn, don't jump to any conclusions before I hear both sides. Jumping to conclusions will only reflect my own ignorance.
2. Untruth speaking.
12:22, "Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who act faithfully are his delight." 29:5, "A man who flatters his neighbor spreads a net for his feet." These verses tell us to stay away from lies, for God hates dishonest lips. To flatter someone means to exaggerate what the person has done. So and so planted many churches, in fact he may have planted only one.
4. Praising self.
27:2, "Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips." This is self explanatory. I still remember a comment I made about myself to a small group of people when I first came to Houston. I won't tell you what it is. But even to this day, I still feel embarrassed. Whenever I recall this, I kick myself and said, "How could you have said that."
Our speech reflects our character. Our language also tells us about the culture we live in. When we hear those foul languages and cussing words used in our society, it tells us the lack of depth in this culture. My heart is saddened when I see US senators using inappropriate words in some of the recent public hearings in the congress. It tells me about their characters.
How about our language and speeches; especially behind the closed doors of our families? If the walls in our home have ears, what would they have heard? May be for this reason, you want to make sure our conversations at home are not being recorded. I have seen so many husbands, wives and children living in environments where poisonous words are used regularly; leading to hurt spirits, low self esteem and unhappy family lives. Individuals coming from such families, very often, also don't know how to communicate properly with others in the church, fellowship or small groups.
The scriptures tell us that our tongues are full of poison. It has the power to kill and give life. We have briefly studied many Proverbs passages, telling us what speeches are pleasing to God and what are not. There is one major theme that threads through these passages. That is, we are to exercise control over our tongue and speech. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we're to think before we speak; to restrain our tongues. So that the words coming out of our mouth is kind and gracious, bringing healing and life into people's broken lives. Our speech reflects our relationship with Christ, and the depth of our spiritual growth.
Note: I want to thank Dr. Collins for graciously allow me to use his class
notes as the outline for this message.