My young grandson got home from kindergarten and went straight over to the playpen where his baby sister was happily kicking and cooing. He cooed back and began talking to her. He looked up and said, “Mommy, I don’t know if she’s going to be Spanish or not.” His mom, a bit puzzled said, “Well Mommy isn’t Spanish and Daddy isn’t Spanish so the baby won’t be Spanish either.” He explained to his clueless mother, “We won’t know until she starts talking.”
Children learn to speak the language they hear by repeating and being rewarded with verbal praise and clapping when they utter Mama and Dada. Gradually, their vocabulary expands to the positive reinforcement of saying a word correctly. If a child hears German, they will eventually speak German, if Spanish, then Spanish, and if English, then English.
If a child is raised with a language of respect and honor, they will speak with respect and honor. If a child is raised with a language of anger and hate, that is the language they will speak. If they spend time with peers who have different values from their parents, they might start speaking like their peers.
As we grow and our vocabulary increases, we become equipped with words to express our inner man. The Bible says in Luke 6:45, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good, and the evil person out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil, for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.” And once words are spoken, the person’s true identity is revealed.
Frustration, anger, dismay, sadness, hurt, embarrassment, impatience, disappointment: all of our “negative” emotions give the opportunity for us to show who we truly are.
My parents taught me how to talk like a lady. Dad said you can always tell whether a woman is a true lady by the words that come from her mouth. My mother was my example. She did not curse or yell, she was not loud, she didn’t not gossip, she spoke kindly yet truthfully. My mother was my example of a godly woman. Always with “A word fitly spoken, like apples of gold in settings of silver” (Proverbs 25:11)
When I was still in Junior High, my sister had already graduated from college and had a job a couple of states away. I could hardly wait for her to come home for the holidays. I hadn’t seen her since last summer, and this time she was bringing her fiancé home to meet the family. I stood guard at the kitchen window and was the first to see their car turn at the end of our snow-covered lane. I ran outside and wrapped my arms around my sister as soon as she stepped out of the car, and eagerly greeted her “friend”. I was still just a schoolgirl, but he jokingly whispered to her, “Maybe I got the wrong one!” It wasn’t long until I became upset about something, spoke sharply at one of my siblings, and stormed off. I don’t really remember what happened, but he again whispered in her ear, “No, I think I got the right one.”
My outward beauty soon turned to ashes when I opened my mouth and the wrong words came out.
Proverbs 11:9a | “Evil words destroy one’s friends.”
Lila was a beautiful girl just a few years older than me. She had come back to college after a number of semesters at Bible School, and we were getting to know each other. I asked if she had a boyfriend. She blushed and admitted she really liked someone who was in leadership at the Bible School. Although he was her age, because she was a student, they hadn’t established an official relationship. She pulled out a picture of this man she liked so much. The proper response would have been, “Oh, he’s cute”, but he wasn’t. In fact, he was extremely odd-looking with a big nose, big handlebar mustache, bad complexion, and a strange haircut. I looked at the picture, and it was obvious the picture of this beautiful girl’s boyfriend surprised me. She tried to explain what an exceptional person he was and how he was loved and revered by everyone that knew him.
I’m not sure what became of their relationship, but as chance would have it, I wound up attending the same Bible School a few years later, and that same teacher was at the school. Again, by chance, I was in his class, and just like she had said, he was a masterpiece of an individual. He was charming, funny, mature in his faith, and frankly had quite a following of students who enjoyed his wit, humor, and wisdom in the Lord. His beautiful spirit had nothing to do with his outward appearance, but rather the “good treasure of his heart brought forth his goodness.”
James 3:3-5 NKJV | Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so, the tongue is a little member and boasts great things.
Heavenly Father, let my words be “like apples of gold in settings of silver”. I surrender my tongue to you and ask that you put a guard at my mouth. Let my words come from the “good treasure of my heart.” Please continue to do a work in my life, that the words I speak would be truth, life-giving words, ministering to the deepest needs of those within my sphere of influence. Thank you for Jesus. Thank you for the cross. Thank you for your mercy. Please give me discernment, let me reflect your love to the world around me, and let me be gracious and merciful with my words, as you are with me. In Jesus name, Amen.