Grow Class - The Power of Words

Assorted Proverbs

Whoever conceals hatred with lying lips and spreads slander is a fool. (Proverbs 10:18)

Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues. (Proverbs 10:19)

From the mouth of the righteous comes the fruit of wisdom, but a perverse tongue will be silenced. (Proverbs 10:31)

The lips of the righteous know what finds favor, but the mouth of the wicked only what is perverse. (Proverbs 10:32)

Evildoers are trapped by their sinful talk, and so the innocent escape trouble. (Proverbs 12:13)

From the fruit of their lips people are filled with good things, and the work of their hands brings them reward. (Proverbs 12:14)

An honest witness tells the truth, but a false witness tells lies. (Proverbs 12:17)

The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. (Proverbs 12:18)

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)

The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit. (Proverbs 15:4)

The hearts of the wise make their mouths prudent, and their lips promote instruction. (Proverbs 16:23)

A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends. (Proverbs 16:28)

Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues. (Proverbs 17:28)

To answer before listening— that is folly and shame. (Proverbs 18:13)

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. (Proverbs 18:21)

An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips. (Proverbs 24:26)

Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone. (Proverbs 25:15)

Cindi asked me to talk about words. And I love that topic, not just because I have the gift of gab, which I do. But I truly am a lover of words. I love reading a good story, but if I'm being really honest, sometimes the content of what I'm reading comes second to whether or not I enjoy someones writing.

People like C.S. Lewis, GK Chesterton, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Henri Nouwen, Brennan Manning. These people take what is in my heart, and make it real.

Beautiful words can touch you the same way music can.

Wendell Barry - He's a writer, a poet, and a farmer.

The Peace Of Wild Things

When despair grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting for their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free. (Wendell Berry - The Peace Of Wild Things)

What We Need Is Here

Geese appear high over us, pass, and the sky closes. Abandon, as in love or sleep, holds them to their way, clear in the ancient faith: what we need is here. And we pray, not for new earth or heaven, but to be quiet in heart, and in eye, clear. What we need is here. (Wendell Berry - What We Need Is Here)

There will be a time when you're long gone, but your words will still be here alive and well in peoples hearts, affecting them in ways you don't realize.

And the Bible has an incredible amount to say when it comes to words, in particular the book of proverbs, apart from wisdom itself talks about words more than any other subject.

The obvious point, is the book of Proverbs, and the Bible as a whole, says how you speak will make or break your life.

Words are all important.

The quality of your marriage, the quality of your service at church, the quality of your work life, the quality of your friend life has as much to do with your words as anything else.

Malcolm Gladwell - Blink

  • Psychologist John Gottman - Univ. of Washington
  • “Love Lab” - 1hour-95% - 15mins-90%

Words can wound like nothing else

Gail - N Word

Remember details: 2nd Grade, 1971, Just moved, new school. I bet: you could think of a time in your past where someone said something that cut you. And it took a long time for that wound to heal.

"The words of the reckless pierce like swords." (Proverbs 12:18)

You know, once you say something, it can never be unsaid. There will never be a universe where you didn't say what you said.

It's like a sword. If you stab someone, you can pull out the knife but you can't pull out the wound. And even when the wound heals, the scar is there forever.

Words Can Kill

So words can wound, but more than that, words can kill.

The tongue has the power of life and death, (Proverbs 18:21)

So in the Old Testament, which is where we're reading, the word 'Life' is 3-dimensional. It refers to: Physical life, personal inner life (what we might call Psychological life), and communal life.

And words can destroy all 3.

Physical Life

Words have the power to literally kill people.

If you think I'm exaggerating, just look at history.

Words have been the cause of:

  • Words have been the cause of murder.
  • Words have been the cause of suicide.

I've done funerals for people who have killed themselves b/c of something that was said to them. And you might be saying "Yeah, that's just an excuse." Yeah maybe. But either way it shows the incredible power of words.

  • Words have been the cause of war.

Psychological Life

Words have the power to kill people psychologically.

Words form people's identities. Continuously call your kid stupid, and they will deal with that for the rest of their life.

I bet some of us in this room still have identity issues that were birthed out of careless words.

You've heard the saying 'Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.' - Oh give me a break. It should be something like "Sticks and stones can just break bones, but words can kill your soul."

Communal Life

Words have the power to kill communal life.

A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends. (Proverbs 16:28)

When you see a relationship disappear. When you see a marriage dissolve, or a friendship dissolve, or a community dissolve, I can't personally think of any examples as to why that happens that isn't words.

Word make or break 100% of marriages.

Proverbs: Words ≠ just destroy hearer - speaker.

Proverbs tells us something interesting. That words don't just destroy the hearer, they also destroy the speaker.

Evildoers are trapped by their sinful talk, (Proverbs 12:13)

Look at what James says:

We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check. (James 3:2)

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. (James 3:3)

Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. (James 3:4)

Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. (James 3:5)

The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. (James 3:6)

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, (James 3:7)

but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. (James 3:8)

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. (James 3:9)

Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. (James 3:10)

Did you catch that? If you could control your tongue, you'd be perfect. And in fact, it's your tongue that corrupts your entire body.

Words clothe your thoughts.

Words are a gateway into your interior life. It's makes your interior life real.

So for example, if you say to someone 'I hate you'. You said it because you felt it, but after that first time, you feel it because you said it.

Your words makes your feelings real.

They solidify your feelings. And so you might be thinking: "Ok got it, never express a negative feelings." - That doesn't work either.

Whoever conceals hatred with lying lips and spreads slander is a fool. (Proverbs 10:18)

So what are we supposed to do? We're supposed to use the power of words positively.

So for example, when you feel hatred, or jealousy, you don't use your words to REINFORCE those things in you, you use yours words to CONFESS those sins.

You don't deny, deny, deny. "I don't have hatred in my heart!" - But you also don't rile yourself up with self-justifying words. No, you're honest about where you're at, but you use yours words to point your in the right direction, not the wrong one.

Words Give life

So while words have the power to kill, they also have the power to give life.

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. (Proverbs 18:21)

Words are like food. They sustain us.

Existentialism

I don’t know how many of you guys are familiar with the idea of ‘existentialism’ but it’s a cool word to impress your friends with at a party.

This past week I finished kinda the quintessential existential novel ‘the stranger’ by Albert Camus.

You find yourself within yourself

For those of you who don’t know, existentialism is an idea that basically says ‘You find yourself within yourself.' “Look inside yourself Simba.”

‘Bridget Jones Diary’. New Years resolutions.

I’d like to illustrate Existentialism with ‘Bridget Jones’.

Who here has seen the movie ‘Bridget Jones Diary’? Who here has read the book? Well I’ve done neither. But I’m familiar with it, it’s like a modern book about existentialism. No really.

For example: In her ‘diary’ she has some New Years resolutions. Here are 3:

  1. “I will not waste money on books by unreadable literary authors to put impressively on shelves.”
  2. “I will develop inner poise and authority and sense of self as woman of substance, complete without boyfriend, as best way to obtain boyfriend.”
  3. “Be an assured, receptive, responsive woman of substance. My sense of self comes not from other people, but … from … myself? That can’t be right.”

Bridget has bought into the whole post modern thing: You create yourself. You don’t need other people. No one can tell you who to be or what to do. No, you create yourself. ”

And here’s the truth, are you ready?… You can’t. You can’t validate yourself. It’s like proof-reading your own novel. You need someone else to proof read your writing, b/c you don’t have clear vision when it comes to your own writing. You can’t see your strengths and you can’t see your weaknesses.

No, you need a word from the outside. College will teach you: “You get to decide who you want to be. And you validate yourself.” That’s ridiculous.

Imagine you’re an artist Imagine you’re an artist and you’ve been producing art for five years, and every single person who has ever seen your art walks in and says, “This is useless.” Every one. What do you say? “Oh, who cares? All that matters is what I think and say.” No! You’d give up. Somebody has to come in and say, “This is great. I see something I didn’t see before. This is wonderful. This is glorious.” Somebody has to say it.

You’re not an artist if somebody doesn’t say you’re an artist from the outside.

Character of Words

Words have power over the hearer AND the speaker. Luckily for us, the Bible is incredibly clear and concise when it comes to the character of our words.

And I want you to know right off the bat, some of these are quite challenging. We're gonna go through this list and if you're anything like me, you're gonna feel very bad about yourself. Don't let that happen, we're all growing, we're all learning.

  • Truthful Speech rather than Deceptive Speech
  • Gentile Speech rather than Harsh Speech
  • Timely Speech rather than Careless Speech
  • Direct Speech rather than Gossip
  • Economical Speech rather than Impulsive Speech

1. Truthful Speech / Deceptive Speech

An honest witness tells the truth, but a false witness tells lies. (Proverbs 12:17)

But it actually goes farther than that. Did you realize that being truthful isn't just about not telling lies.

You can say something technically true, but it's still deceptive. "Well I wasn't TECHNICALLY lying." - Well yeah, but you were still being deceptive.

'Fake News' A phrase I hear all the time is 'Fake News'. I think most everybody agrees that fake news is an awful thing. We don't all agree one exactly what news is fake, but we all understand that deceiving people is an awful thing to do.

Well what's so bad about being deceptive?

When you deceive somebody, you are denying them their right to know reality. You’re putting a shroud over part of reality.

It leads to two things:

1. It destorys community.

When you lie to someone, it causes you and them to see different realities. And a barrier goes up. Now you have to watch what you say to make sure you don't expose your lie. You have to lie more to cover for your initial lie.

Unfaithful Spouse This is what happens when a spouse in unfaithful. The unfaithful spouse robs their partner of their ability to see the relationship in a accurate way. That's why people feel so humiliated when they learn they've been cheated on, because they thought the relationship was like 'this' when it wasn't. Lies destroy community.

2. It robs people of their ability to make decisions.

You make decisions on the basis of what you know about reality. The more of reality you know, the smarter the decisions are. The less reality people have, the more destructive their decisions are going to be.

2. Gentile Speech / Harsh Speech

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)

So you have to be truthful, but you have to be gentle.

What does it mean to be gentle? Does it mean to talk in this super soft, calming voice, like Pastor Marshall? Pastor Marshall is gentle, but that's not what that means.

To understand what 'gentle speech' is, lets look at it's opposite.

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)

This word 'harsh' means to inflict pain.

Here's the test. Your speech can never be motivated by wanting to inflict pain.

To wound, to embarrass. Someone does something stupid, and you point it out because you think it's funny. No, that's inflicting pain. That's not gentle.

You speech always has to be motivated by love.

Here’s how you can tell whether you’re being gentle in what you’re saying. When the listener says, “I don’t want to hear what this person is telling me, but it’s very obvious this person loves me, and it’s painful for this person to say this to me.” If they can tell you are saying something they don’t want to hear and yet it’s painful for you to say, you’re into gentleness.

Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone. (Proverbs 25:15)

WHAT?!

Wow. So are we are saying that it's actually people who speak gently that are able to break down walls? YES. Which is completely opposite of culture today. We think that in order to persuade, you have to yell super loud, and bang on the table, and type in all caps.

And you slam people, and you put people in their place. All you've done is made yourself irrelevant. People don't listen to those who are sucker punching them all the time.

You have very little morally persuasive power with people who can feel your underlying contempt.”
— Martin Luther King Jr.

Bill Maher / Anne Coulter If you think about Bill Maher, who's a liberal talk show host, is constantly taking cheap shots at conservatives. He's like the most sarcastic thing you've ever seen. And then on the other side, you have someone like Anne Coulter, who is a conservative political commentator. And they are both just the easiest, most sarcastic, demeaning people you've ever seen. What's really funny is they're actually friends.

And they honestly think that they're persuading people, but they aren't. B/C there's not a shred of gentleness there. They make people look stupid and they LOVE IT. Scripture though, gives us another way. Scripture says you persuade through your gentleness.

3. Timely Speech / Careless Speech

The lips of the righteous know what finds favor, (Proverbs 10:32)

Ok, so I am a pastor, which in todays world for many of us mean that we spend a huge portion of our week talking with people. And trying to persuade people. What is a sermon if not something to challenge people to change.

Here's a pro tip: You can say the right thing at the wrong time, and it does nothing but wound.

Pro-Life

I am fiercely Pro-Life. And I believe the life Jordan and I have chosen should demonstrate our commitment to finding homes for babies instead of aborting them. I'm as strong as you can get Pro-Life.

But I also know that my speech has to not only be TRUE, but also GENTLE, and TIMELY. I no longer believe in going to the Abortion clinic with a megaphone and saying 'You are all murderers!!!' - No. That's not effective speech. That's wounding speech. And it history shows us anything, these women often times find themselves riddles with unbelievable guilt and shame for what they've done, and so they don't need Christians screaming at them that they're murderers. Even if it is true, it's not timely.

An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips. (Proverbs 24:26)

Isn't that a cool verse? This is the only time the Bible says this exact phrase 'A kiss on the lips'. You might be thinking that this just means 'An honest answer is a way to show love.' And that's true, but that's not what this verse is saying.

Herodotus - He-rod-a-tus - He's a greek historian from the 4th century BC. He explains the cultural meaning:

“When one man meets another, it is easy to see if the two are equals; for then without speaking they kiss each other on the lips. If [there is a small difference in rank between the two men], it is the cheek that is kissed; if it [is a great difference in rank between the two men], the humbler bows [and kneels before the other].”

So that's why scholars think this is a very interesting verse.

Timely speech is at the right time, and at the right 'level'.

So if I talk to my wife the way I talk to my daughter. That's probably not a good thing. And if I talk to my daughter how I talk to my wife. That's not good either. And it's not respecting either of them. I speak to my wife in a way that she'll understand, and I speak to my daughter in a way that she's understand.

You know, I make a lot of self-deprecating jokes. I am the butt of 90% of my own jokes. You guys know this. For sermons I'm constantly thinking of these stories that illustrate the point and at the same time make me look like a big old' dummy. I love that. I love making people laugh. Here's something that I learned very early in my relationship with Jordan. It's fine for me to be the butt of my jokes, but it's NEVER ok for us as a couple to be the butt of a joke. That's not a blessing to her. She doesn't want me poking fun at her in front of other people.

And so I'm not like "Oh you're just being too sensitive! I'm just having fun!" - No, I kiss her on the lips. I show that she's an equal. I show respect.

Messianic Jew Rabbi Today I had coffee with a guy who attends our 12:30pm service along with his messianic jew rabbi. He's goes to both communities and he had some questions that he wanted to ask us together. So there were not a lot, but a few things that the Rabbi and I had different perspectives. But I kissed him on the lips. Not in a creepy way, but I spoke as if he was my equal. I didn't talk down to him. I didn't roll my eyes when he made a point I disagreed with.

It's your responsibility to do everything you possibly can to make sure what you say is hearable.

4. Direct Speech / Gossip

Whoever conceals hatred with lying lips and spreads slander is a fool. (Proverbs 10:18)

You need to talk TO people, more than you talk ABOUT them.

Not often - complaint M&C

It's not often that people have come to me to with some complaint of Pastors Marshall and Cindi, that does NOT happen often. But it has happened. And I hear them talking about I'm just thinking "How many conversations with how many different people have you had about this?!"

And then they finish their 7 point dissertation, I simply ask them "Have you talked to them about it?" "Well no." "Well then what are you doing talking to me about it. In what world does this lead to anything good?"

Gossip is the way of the coward. It takes courage to be honest with people. To talk to people about real issues and real offenses. It takes courage.

Marshall and Cindi - family 10 years - heated discussions

Marshall and Cindi (sorry for you using so many example of you. That's what you get for sitting in the front I guess), we've been family for 10 years. Not only are they my spiritual leaders, they're also my in-laws AND my boss. And like any family, we've had a few pretty heated discussions. We have. But it's actually an act of love to go directly TO a person. I don't go around 'Man, my in-laws are so mean.' No I'm not 12 years old. Direct. Not gossip.

5. Economical Speech / Impulsive Speech

Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues. (Proverbs 10:19)

When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, But he who restrains his lips is wise. (Proverbs 10:19 NASB)

This is very offensive to me, someone who talks for a living. The average person about 120 words per minute. That's two words a second. I probably do at least double that. And if you multiply that by 60 minutes. It boggles the mind how many words I say in a given week.

Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues. (Proverbs 17:28)

But as we've discussed, you need words. But if you're just spouting out whatever comes into your mind, you're going to wound people.

Truthful, Gentle, Timely, Direct, Economical


Solution?

Ok so what's the solution? What do we do about it? Do we just grit out teeth, and try not to say the awful things we really WANT to say? No of course not. God changes us from the inside out.

The hearts of the wise make their mouths prudent, (Proverbs 16:23)

What makes their mouths prudent? Their heart.

Jesus:

“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. (Matthew 12:33)

So the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. Willpower isn't enough.

All of your mouth problems come from what fills the heart.

So in order to have a changed mouth, you have to have a changed heart. So let me ask you a question: Why do you lie? - You might be thinking "Because we're all sinners." Yeah that's true. But why do you lie in the particular way you do?

So for me for example: I won't lie for convenience sake. 'Hey can you help me move?' - 'Can't. My mother-in-law is having ankle surgery.' - I don't do that. If I'm gonna lie, it's because I don't want to hurt people's feelings. B/C being liked is very important to me.

That's a reality in my heart. That somewhere I have an insecurity where I need to be liked. And out of that, come my words.

And doing the work of tracking your speech sins to the deeper issue in your heart can sometimes be a really tough thing. But that's why we have the Holy Spirit. The spirit can illuminate things for us that we can't see on our own.

To where you think "Wow. I really lash out at my wife when she wants to go out with her friends. Why is that?" And you ask God to help you and he reveals to you that you have this fear of being abandoned that's left over from when your dad walked out on you. And that's not a theoretical example, that's a conversation I had with a real person last week.

All word problems stem from heart problems.

If you were to go home and read Acts chapter 2, you'd read about what we call pentecost. When the Holy Spirit arrives on the scene.

What's the first thing that changes? Their language. - So much so, that even if you didn't speak their language and they didn't speak yours, you could understand each other.

How did that happen? They were filled with the Holy Spirit. Their internal life was radically changed and from that internal life comes breakthrough in language.

Pentecost is the reversal of the curse of Bable.

Remember that in Genesis 11? The people's hearts were filled with self-glorification. And then what happened? Their language stopped working. But when the Holy Spirit comes, he fills us from the inside out and our language changes.

Which of course leads us to Jesus.

Go and study the words of Jesus. No one unnecessary word. Not one. His words were consistently: Truthful, Gentle, Timely, Direct, Economical. But what's amazing is Jesus is not just a great example of speaking, John tells us that Jesus is the Word of God.

He is the Alpha and the Omega. What does that mean? That means he's the whole alphabet. He's the whole dictionary. And it's only Jesus that has the power to heal a heart at its deepest level.