Watch Your Mouth

Several weeks ago I was asked if I would be willing to do a workshop at an upcoming Ladies’ Retreat. At the time, I had nothing really in mind that would make a useful contribution. I knew that the main speaker’s theme was going to be on holiness so my mind began to drift in that direction. What aspect of holiness would make a good workshop?

With more than just a little prompt from the Holy Spirit, I landed on the theme of language—what comes out of our mouths that probably shouldn’t. It’s a theme that has niggled at the back of my mind since I began to hear language that made me shudder from people I didn’t expect to hear it from, and on occasions that I never imagined remotely appropriate for its use.

My research on the subject has revealed some startling things—including things about some the words and phrases I often use. There is a red flag—I am not the language police and I don’t want to come across as one who is playing that role. What I want to highlight is our need to avoid what Proverbs 19:15 describes as “idle” words, or useless words, for which we will be held accountable, especially if those words or phrases are rooted in language that is offensive and abuses the name of the Lord.

This morning I was reading in Luke 6 and was reminded again of the importance that is attached to what we say. Luke writes: “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good,and the evil person out of the evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (6:45).

What is key here for me is the passage in Proverbs. The writer doesn’t specifically target words and phrases that use God’s name lightly. He points out that “useless” words are also to be avoided—they aren’t needed. They are simply lazy words meant to fill in empty air. Unfortunately they often hover on the edge of offensiveness and disrespect at the same time, even when they don’t cross the line.

I discovered that I use a lot of empty words and phrases. There are situations and conversations we take part in when we feel we have to say something even when there is nothing really to be said. So we fill in. I use the phrase “oh my goodness” a fair bit. It sounds innocent—an exclamation in response to something that is surprising or unusual—and I considered it innocent. But it is a euphemism for “oh my God,” something I don’t want to say because it is an abuse of the Lord’s name. Aside from that, the phrase is idle, lazy, useless. It says nothing, so why say it at all? It says nothing, and we will be held accountable for it, is an even better reason to watch our language.

Someone may accuse me of hairsplitting, but I didn’t write the words from Proverbs, the admonition from Luke, or the other verses from Scripture that warn us to watch our tongues. If the writers of Scripture, under the influence and mandate of the Holy Spirit, recorded these statements, then it is wise for us to pay attention. What we say is a reflection of what is in our hearts—if our words are empty, lazy, useless, what does say about the state of our hearts? If our words misuse the name of the Lord even remotely, what does that say about the state of our hearts?


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