Words are funny little things. We all use them to tell stories, communicate feelings, or to generally share with other people. Sometimes we can think of the right words to share at the exact right time. On the other hand, our words can escape us causing us to use different adjectives to try to find help to figure out the word we can’t think of. “You know, that thing. It’s red and we use it to clean up the leaves in the fall?” “You mean a rake?” “Yeah, a rake… big words are hard.” Even as I’m writing I’m having a hard time coming up with the words to clearly communicate all the thoughts that are running through my head. Or maybe it’s because of all the coffee running through my veins? Who knows? Words have a way of… what was I saying? Oh, right. Words are powerful.
Recently in my household, we have been talking about words a lot. My son, who is currently four, has an amazing vocabulary. He speaks well for someone his age and is able to communicate his thoughts clearly. This, however, is not a story of my son’s linguistic ability. This is a story of how my son didn’t want to take a nap at school and called his teachers “poopy” and “butthead”. The horror that came over me to hear that my sweet little boy could allow such words to come out of his mouth made me reevaluate my parenting style. Then, I remembered he’s a sinner just like me, and like me, he too will make mistakes and will need to have God’s truth and Word (Bible verses) spoken into his life. When I got the behavior note from his teacher, I knelt down and asked my son why he said such mean words to his teachers. He gave the very astute answer of “I don’t know”. This was my time to swoop in and tell him why his little sinful ways were happening, and we need Jesus to save us from our sin. Watch out; discipling of young spawn about to commence. I began to tell my son how our mouths will speak what is in our heart.
I quoted scripture: “Jesus said, ‘Out of the overflow of our hearts our mouth speaks.’ [Luke 6] So, when we say mean things to people, we show that we don’t have love in our hearts for them. Do you love your teachers?”
Son: “Yes, mama.”
Me: “So how can you show them God’s love?”
Son: “By saying nice things to them, mama, and not being mean.”
Me: “Good job, bubba. Now go say sorry to your teachers for your mean words.”
Parenting win! I was on cloud 9! I was rocking out discipling of my kid! (pats self on back). Now, in the mind of a 4-year-old, words go in, get stirred around, and can sometimes produce something completely different. The next morning, as I’m driving my kids to school, I wanted to encourage my son about his words and how his words needed to be kind.
After listening to my son’s favorite song “Your Grace is Enough” by Matt Maher…
Me: “Ok, bud. How are you going to talk to your teachers today?”
Son: “With nice words and not be mean.”
Me: “Why are you going to do that?” *side note: At this moment in the conversation, I thought he was going to quote the words of Jesus back to me that I shared with him the previous day. No, he took all the words I’ve ever said to him about Jesus and our hearts, stirred it around in his head, and replied back to me.*
Son: “Well, when I say nice words, it shows my teachers and friends that I love Jesus. I want people to know Jesus loves them, so I have to speak nice words and not be mean.”
Ummm, ok. That was unexpected… and convicting. I mean, awesome that my son had this kind of revelation in his four-year-old mind, but as his 34-year-old mom, I was struck to the core. At that very moment, the Lord reminded me of James 3:9-10:
“With the tongue (words) we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.” (parentheses added)
I can admit that out of my mouth both praises to the Lord and cursing of people have come out. I have spoken mean words to and about other people. Complaining that something didn’t go how I thought it should; not agreeing with a decision that had been made; basically whining about some injustice that had happened to me that I would forget about in two weeks. You know, those injustices: having to sit in traffic, waiting a couple extra minutes at the grocery store line while the ladies in front of me had a pleasant conversation, or not getting the best service at a restaurant. I’m not saying I was dropping F-bombs like I was in war. Rather, cursing as in saying mean words, to use my 4-year-old’s definition. In those moments, when I was cursing people, were my words pointing to Jesus? Were they kind words, so other people would see that I love Jesus and that Jesus loves them just as much? Or were they mean words, cursing and condemning? If I spoke mostly mean words instead of kind, what does that say about me, since my words are the overflow of my heart? Ouch.
Thankfully, Jesus is capable of changing my heart. I invited Him in almost 20-some years ago, and over time in His strength, He changed and continue to changes me. The thing is, when it comes to sin, I am a hoarder. I like to stockpile evil and sinful desires in my heart. That’s probably why the psalmist wrote in Psalm 119:11, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Might not sin, not will not sin, against the Lord. Sin will happen because I am a sinner. I will have mean words come out of my mouth every once in awhile. J.I. Packer says in Concise Theology, “We are not sinners because we sin, but rather we sin because we are sinners, born with a nature enslaved to sin.” That is why Jesus came and died to set us free from being enslaved to sin. Though I am free, it is a constant battle for me to not sin. It is hard to not have words that can tear down other people come out of my mouth, which in all honesty are coming out of my heart. Even if my words may never hit someone’s ear and I say them to myself in secret, they are still flowing out of my heart. I may seem like I’m totally nice or have it all together, but when I am alone, the truth of my heart comes out. Thankfully, like a bucket, my heart can only hold so much. I’d like to think my bucket would be like one found at some farmhouse in central Texas. Really cute, but functional. Anywho, going back to the verse from Psalm 119, the more I fill my heart with God’s truth and word, the less cursing of my fellow sinner will come out of my heart and mouth. I may be a hoarder, but Jesus is all about decluttering my life and making it clean (sanctification). And, as my son said it, people will know that I love Jesus and that Jesus loves them when I speak God’s love and not mean words.