“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: all these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” Matthew 7:21–23
Have you noticed how vulgar and profane we have become as a society of enlightened people? It seems that the more “civilized” a nation becomes, the more uncivilized its language becomes. People do not feel the slightest hesitation in using the most perverse language in public. Children hear it from their coaches, it is flaunted as being funny on television shows, and parents use it to express emphasis in their conversations at home. People even wear it on their t-shirts. To be such an educated lot, we sure sound ignorant at times.
When I was a boy growing up in Savannah, Georgia, my family would take trips to visit some kinfolk who lived on a farm near Norway, South Carolina. My mom was from a little South Carolina town called Tarboro, and we had relatives throughout the low country. I knew exactly what it meant when we kids were told we were going to “the country.” I always relished the opportunity to immerse myself in farm life, even though I grew up directly across from a small farm in Georgia. The farm in Carolina was so big that I felt like I was the first explorer to discover some of the “nooks and crannies” of that vast real estate. Even now, it is a place that I retreat to in my mind and find peaceful memories of days gone by.
It was rustic living at its best. With no indoor plumbing, the path from the back door led to the outhouse. I won’t discuss my impressions of that place, the potential for splinters, nor the fear that racked a young boy’s heart during late night visits to “the men’s room.” I still remember my first bath on that farm. It took place on the back porch in a #5 galvanized washtub. I felt like an exhibitionist even though there were not any neighbors within ten miles, and Mom kept assuring me that no one was watching. It was the fastest bath of my life.
When water was needed it either came from the hand pump, or it was drawn from the well. I remember peering over the edge of that well and thinking that it led to the center of the earth. We thrilled at being able to drop the bucket into that well and pull up a bucket-full of cool water to quench our thirst. We were told to make sure that we didn’t drop any objects into that well, or it could pollute the drinking water.
I have often thought about that well, and the lessons it taught me about life. The tongue really is nothing more than a bucket that draws from our inner reservoir and brings it to the surface for all to hear. You won’t draw clear water from a polluted well. You can wash your mouth out with soap, but that won’t clean your heart. That really is the teaching of James 3:11: “Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?” The problem is not superficial; it must be traced back to its source.
It is not so much that we have a mouth problem as it is that we have a heart problem. Our words are just an indication of what is deep within our heart. There are many people who do not use obscene language, and yet their words indicate a polluted heart. Critical words come from a critical heart. Judgmental words come from a judgmental heart. Words of self-righteousness come from a heart that is a reservoir of self-righteousness. A slanderous tongue is serving up the content of a slanderous heart.
When Mom would take us to the doctor, he would take an oversized popsicle-stick, called a tongue suppressor, and press our tongue down so that he could examine our mouth. I was told that the general health of a person could be determined by examining their mouth. The same is true spiritually. We are deceiving ourselves if we think we can have an undisciplined mouth, and yet our overall spiritual being is in good health. No wonder David prayed: “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14). Our mouth is connected to our heart by our words.
Maybe we should start listening to ourselves. Your words will tell you the condition of your heart, and will let you catch a glimpse of the real you.
“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.” Luke 6:45