20 April 2009

"If we had to have a moratorium where all believers had to just speak well of their brethren for a couple of days, there'd be tumbleweed...

...blowing through the Internet."

I was catching up on a few blogs this morning and came across the above quote. Intrigued, since I'm one who has a difficult time keeping my tongue under control, I decided to go and look it up. The man who said this, Jim Savastio of the Reformed Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, was teaching a lesson on "Destructive Speech," and the springboard for his lesson was the following text, Matt 12:33-37:
"Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." (NASU)

Sobering words, and Mr. Savastio went on to say, "Our use of language will either support our profession of faith or it will negate our profession of faith, and that is all that will be needed on the last day to demonstrate whether or not we have a new heart." The Bible has a lot to say about our speech and our use of this gift of language... another intense and convicting passage is found in James 3. I'm one of those people who likes words... likes using them - unfortunately, I must also say that I am not as careful as I should be about how and when I use them. I tend to be notably more prudent about what I write than what I say; and even more considerably careful about what I say than what I allow myself to think. And I am convinced, beyond a shadow of any doubt, that my words - particularly my thoughts - are a pretty good barometer of where my relationship, my fellowship, with the Lord stands, at that present moment.

Mr. Savastio went on to outline 5 characteristics or elements of destructive speech: Is is deceptive? Sensual? Excessive? Abusive? Or divisive? While in the lesson to which I listened he only really explored deceptiveness, that list seemed contains 5 good checks to utilize regarding how I use words, be they in ministry, in my home, with my neighbors, socializing on Facebook, or just sitting sipping tea at the side of the pool. Is what I am thinking about saying deceptive, misleading or purposefully capable of being perceived as something else... or is my communication transparent? Are words I use sensual or inappropriate? Here's one that is often a struggle for me: Are my words too many, too extreme or disproportionate for the situation, unwarranted? Or are they exact, gentle and few. I should never be using words that are offensive, cruel or rude - even though the temptation is strong when someone else has hurt me. And finally, is what I feel I HAVE to say intended to cause disagreement, debate, hostility or conflict? Or are they words that bring peace, healing, resolution or restoration. That's a lot of "stuff" to think about, especially in an environment that seeks and often approves of sensationalistic words, both written or spoken, that clearly fall into one or more of those destructive categories.

They bend their tongue like their bow;
Lies and not truth prevail in the land;
For they proceed from evil to evil,
And they do not know Me," declares the Lord.
Jeremiah 9:3 (NASU)

Note: If you'd like to hear Mr. Savastio's lesson yourself, please click here.

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