The Gift of Words
Our reading takes us through the middle of Matthew chapter 12. We’re covering verses 15 through 37, and are once again drawn to Jesus’ words. In fact, it’s Jesus’ words about our words that caught my attention. When comparing the words of our lips to the fruit of our life, Jesus said,
A tree is identified by its fruit. Make a tree good, and its fruit will be good. Make a tree bad, and its fruit will be bad. ~ Matthew 12:33
A tree is identified by its fruit. In essence, our life is identified by our words… our actions. If we were totally honest with ourselves, that could be a little scary.
How many of us have ever spoken only good, all the time, nothing else, for more than, say, a couple of days? How about a couple of hours? Oh, we think we’ve got it all together, but then we open our mouths and… whoops!
And the caution here is to not get caught up on such obvious slips as profanity and such. What we need to watch out for is much more subtle. What about casual words of digging sarcasm? Hurtful words spoken in frustrated anger? Those spontaneous critical jabs? I’m talking about some bad fruit.
I know this message sounded loud and clear in our home when our kids were younger. Our usually mild-mannered middle child, 11-year-old Adam, found himself on the ‘giving’ end of some less than flattering remarks towards his younger brother. His frustration had mounted and soon unkind words hung in the air as thick as fog over London. It’s at times like these that most parents wish there was an instruction manual attached to every bare bottom of every newborn baby. But there isn’t. So, I did the next best thing. I reached for my instruction manual – my life’s operating booklet – my own Bible, in hopes it would help me, and my son. And I found a goldmine.
The book of Proverbs, especially, has a lot to say about our words. Have a look…
The godly are showered with blessings; the words of the wicked conceal violent intentions. ~ Proverbs 10:6
The words of the godly are like sterling silver… ~ Proverbs 10:20
The lips of the godly speak helpful words, but the mouth of the wicked speaks perverse words. ~ Proverbs 10:32
Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing. ~ Proverbs 12:18
It seems our words are either music to the ear or sandpaper to the nerves. They can be instruments of beauty or weapons of destruction, all depending on what’s in our hearts. God’s Word also gives some very direct instructions on how we should consider our words. With a lot of help from the Apostle Paul and his letter to the Ephesians, I found these words in the Message Bible.
Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty [or hurtful] come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift. ~ Ephesians 4:29
Say only what helps, each word a gift. Have you ever thought of your words as gifts? I know I hadn’t. And I’m sure Adam hadn’t. But he does now, since he’s written that verse out on paper for me… several times.
But it goes deeper than that. Jesus tells us our words actually grow from the root of what’s in our heart. Seeds of anger and selfishness growing there? Words of pain and abuse will be ripening on our vines. Seeds of peace and contentment taking root? Words of praise and encouragement will be flowering our speech.
Sounds like our hearts don’t so much need a transplant, as they need a Gardener. But not just any Gardener. Someone who, along with a green thumb has a gentle touch. Someone who won’t just kill the offender but will remove it by its roots, and replace it with seeds of goodness growing from His heart of divine love.
And when we allow Him complete access, we’ll find the very aroma of our lives will be a gift… not only to those around us, but more importantly, to the Gardener who so patiently nurtures us.
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