By William F. Holland Jr., DD., C. ED.D.
As I’ve prayed for spiritual awareness over the years, the Lord has been patient with my lack of understanding and has graciously allowed me to labor in the area of communication. When having a conversation with someone, listening intently helps to discern what is on their mind, but most importantly it’s even more important to listen to God in order to know how He wants us to respond. For the Christian, there is no higher responsibility than to monitor and examine every thought and word before we release it.
It’s common for most people to express whatever they feel like saying. To the individual it’s the right of their independence, for the rest of us it’s known as not having a speech filter. The unrenewed mind when left to do and say whatever it wants is often referred to as foolish according to the book of Proverbs. For example, the attempt to bring instruction to those who do not think before they speak is the basis of Proverbs 26:4, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like them.” Wasting time trying to explain only makes them more confident. If we choose to argue with someone who is not thinking clearly, we stoop to a lower level and make things worse. Since unlearned people despise wisdom, they enjoy drawing others into a conflict where they use deceit, become angry, and scoff at opposing ideas.
Seldom do we meditate about what we are going to say but we are reminded in James 1:19-20, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for wrath rarely produces the righteousness of God.” The world is filled with differing opinions about everything and it does not take a lot of effort for a heated argument to arise. Being disciplined is difficult because we feel that we should stand up for what we believe. This can be true on the right occasions, however, the most important thing is to obey God. We should speak when He anoints us to give an answer, and if He says to be silent we should recognize this particular situation is not a divine appointment.
Matthew 12:36-37 goes even further by warning us that our speech is being recorded and will be used in our judgment. “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words, you will be condemned.” It’s wise to be cautious when it comes to joining in certain conversations and to not be so eager to expose our worldviews. If a controversial topic comes to the surface, we may bite on it or we can wait and sense the attitudes and spiritual atmosphere. I’ve heard people say, “it’s no one’s business what I believe” and “I never talk about religion or politics.” evidently these individuals are convinced it’s more comfortable to avoid serious discussions than be a part of them. On the other hand, I often encounter those who courageously (or arrogantly) charge out of the gate with both barrels blazing. Whatever the case, it’s good to have our spiritual antennas up and be ready to discern what is really going on and how or if God is planning to use us.
So, aside from our deeds having an impact on our integrity and respect, it seems our speech actually identifies the type of person we are. Matthew 7:17-20 uses symbolism to describe every person as a tree and what we do and say is the fruit we bear, “Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit, you will recognize them.” It’s true we all make mistakes and constantly need to repent for our failures each hour, yet as believers in God, we must strive to seek His power to improve our communication with one another. Whether it be with our spouse, our children, or at work, is our communication holy, healthy and wholesome? Are we representing Christ in our conversations? Our words reveal our awareness of His presence and this is what the Christian experience is about.
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