I think the proverbial saying “silence is golden” is the best advice for those whose hearts are not cleansed or transformed by the grace of God. It is better to remain silent than to speak the evil stored in an unregenerate heart. Jesus warned the Pharisees who accused him: “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 person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matt 12:34-37)
A man’s character is known by his words. That which is in the heart of a man is going to come to the surface most obviously through his mouth. You don’t have to talk to a man very long or on very many different occasions to find out whether in his heart is pure, wholesome thinking or lustful, evil, dirty thinking. You don’t have to listen to him very long to find out whether his heart is kind, gentle, and thoughtful, or cruel, because it is going to come out of his mouth.
Let’s take a look at what Elihu said in Job 32:17: “I also will answer my part, I too will declare my opinion. For I am full of words; the spirit within me compels me. Indeed my belly is like wine that has no vent; it is ready to burst like new wineskins. I will speak, that I may find relief.” In other words, “I have to get relief, and the only way I can get relief from what is spilling all over the place in my heart is to open my mouth and let it out.” That simply illustrates how the mouth works; it is the place where the heart gushes. We can say a lot of things about what we’re really like, but sooner or later, when our mouth speaks involuntarily, in stress, anger, impatience, isolation, or when we’re not with Christians, we’ll reveal what’s inside our hearts.
Let’s return to the principle in Matthew 12:34: “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” You’ll find this same principle illustrated or commented upon throughout Scripture, see Proverbs 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, and 18, the first part of Psalm 64, and many more places. In the New Testament, you’ll find the same thing. For example, James 1:26 says: “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.” In James 3:8, it says, “No man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” Paul, when he begins to sum up the sinfulness of man in Romans 3, as he comes to the climax of man’s vile character, he says, “Their throat is an open tomb; with their tongues they have practiced deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.” (Rom 3:13) The mouth becomes the ultimate demonstration, as it were, of the evil heart. Whatever is in the heart will come out the mouth. Proverbs 23:7 puts it this way, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.”
Let’s look at the principle expanded in verse 35: “The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.” That’s so simple, it’s almost infantile. Obviously, we can only bring out what we have inside us.
If you open a box, you can only take out what is in it, right? The word ‘treasure’ in verse 35 is thesauros – a reservoir, storehouse, treasure chest, chamber, box. It is the word used in Matthew 2:11 when the wise men came and brought their treasures; they brought their boxes, and in the boxes were their gifts.
Every man’s heart is a storehouse, and what is stored there will spill out of his mouth. So the Lord says, then, that you can be judged by that. The criteria by which God can determine our eternal destiny can be the record of what we say, for an evil person will not utter anything that is truly good. But a good person made good by the grace of God and the transformation of his heart will utter good things and evil as well, as we endeavor to overcome the flesh. But an unregenerate person can say no good thing, can do no truly good thing – that is, nothing which advances the Kingdom of God and ultimately glorifies Him.
A good man, agathos, truly good, and an evil man, poneros, depraved and truly evil, will manifest himself by what he says. That is a simple thing. The Lord has indicted them and said, “You’re the vile ones, as is made obvious by the vile nature of your blasphemy; it just reveals your heart. If you were good, you would be saying good things.” (Cf. Matt 12:34)
I believe that, as Christians, we are accountable to God for what we say. If we speak evil words along with those good words that our new heart produces, we are going to be accountable to God for that and we may be chastened in the day of judgment, we may lose our reward. We have to learn to tame our tongues too. There are those good things, those times we praise and thank God, those times we exalt Christ, and speak truth and wisdom, when we utter with the very voice of God, as it were, that prove we are the redeemed. But then there are those times when that bitter water comes out of the same fountain and James says, “These things ought not to be.” Paul says, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt.” (Col 4:6)
What does salt do? It prevents corruption. Our voice and speech should never contribute to anyone’s corruption; it should always prevent that. Salt also has a way of adding flavour, so our speech should be charming, winsome, should cause laughter and joy in the right way at the expense of no one. Our speech should be spiritual, wholesome, fitting, kind, sensitive, loving, purposeful, edifying, gentle, truthful speech, and we should pray what the psalmist prayed in Psalm 141:3, when he said, “Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.”
So when we speak tens of thousands of words each day, pay attention to what we are saying. What does it tell us? When we write our blogs or tweet each day, what would it say about our heart and who we really are? Would it betray the fact that we don’t know God, or would it reveal the fact that we do and not only do we know Him, but there is no inconsistency – we know God and walk in obedience to Him so that our speech is with grace, seasoned with salt?
Let’s praise God with the hymn “Thy Word”: