Words can teach, uplift and heal, and give life to our spirts. Jesus said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'”
When Jesus asked the twelve disciples if they too wanted to leave him, Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)
Yet, words can also do great damage. Deceitful words can sow doubt, cause rancorous division, and create disorder, pain, and division.
In Genesis 3, we see that the words of the serpent resulted in the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden.
James 3:6-8 says:
And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is an unrighteous world among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the cycle of nature, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature can be tamed and has been tamed by humankind, but no human being can tame the tongue–a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
So the words that the tongue speaks can be used for good or evil. In Matthew 12:34-37, Jesus points out that the quality of our words stems from the condition of our heart:
“You brood of vipers! how can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil man out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment men will render account for every careless word they utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Jesus explains further in Matthew 15:18-20
“… what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a man;”
So if we engage in false witness, malicious lies, of slander, it reveals that there is something wrong with our heart. If our heart were pure we would see God. Our heart would be filled with truth, love, and peace and we would speak words of truth, love and peace.
If we speak evil words, our hearts are not full of love, peace and joy. We feel a lack of love, fear, doubt, and perhaps resentment or hatred. We may be filled with false pride, envy, greed, lust, or anger. These feelings are not healthy for ourselves or others. They will bring us down.
It is not easy to control one’s words. It is not easy to purify one’s heart. But with God all things are possible.
Jesus, the sinless messiah, the perfect man, the true Son of God, died for the sins of mankind. On the cross he prayed for our forgiveness.
We need to pray to our Heavenly Father. We need to ask the Father to forgive us for our sins. God in his gracious mercy will send the Holy Spirit to forgive and comfort us. God will send the Holy Spirit to bring us back to life so that we can be reborn in His love.
When we feel this gift of grace, we need to continue to pray that the Holy Spirit will give us power to sin no more. Old habits die hard. We can not change without the help of the Holy Spirit to guide, teach and comfort us. But with the help of the Holy Spirit we can change old patterns of thought, speech, and behavior. We can be reborn and our hearts can be cleansed and purified. Then God will dwell within us and our thoughts, words and deeds will shine with the light of truth and love. We will become the true sons and daughters of God.
We also must learn to forgive others. The Kingdom of God is not a solo flight. It is a family affair. It includes not just our biological family, not just our race or nation, but everyone in the whole world.
In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others.”
After teaching the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus said in Matthew 6:14-15,
For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Through repentance and forgiveness we can receive the love of God and be born again. Through repentance and forgiveness, reconciliation can occur. Through repentance and forgiveness, God’s Kingdom will come.
If we follow this way, our hearts will become pure and we will speak words of truth, love, and life.
How then do we help those around us who speak lies or engage in malicious gossip and slander?
First of all, do not condemn them, but just as Jesus did, forgive them and pray for them.
The second step is paradoxical and must be practiced to be understood. The second step consists of introspection, self-examination, and purification of one’s own heart.
If we see people engaging in lies, malicious gossip, and slander, we know that the problem lies in the heart. There is a sin problem.
Jesus said in Luke 6:42,
.. how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.
The proud will be humbled and sinners will be brought to repentance. God is a God of both judgement and mercy. It is not our job however to humble the proud and bring sinners to repentance. That is the work of the Holy Spirit.
If we repent, sin no more, forgive others and pray for others, then God will show us clearly what we should do. We will see the power of the Holy Spirit at work and if God wants to use us the Holy Spirit will guide our words and actions.
There is no one-size -fits-all solution to every situation. That is why we pray for divinely inspired wisdom.
James 1:5 says,
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all men generously and without reproaching, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways, will receive anything from the Lord.
James 3:14-17 clarifies further,
…if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This wisdom is not such as comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity.
So ask God to purify your heart and deepen your faith. Then pray for wisdom. God will guide you and you will see the power of the Holy Spirit at work.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Our Father, who art in Heaven, thy kingdom come.