Summary: Jesus knew that one day His brother James would write, "If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check." (James 3:2) The Lord knew the tongue has the power to encourage or discourage; heal or wound;
The Lord knew the tongue has the power to encourage or discourage; heal or wound; direct or deceive; comfort or discomfort; inspire or demoralize; preach truth or falsify; build up or tear down.
Application: Let us examine ideas that Jesus had for using speech as a tool for God’s greater purposes while avoiding its worse abuses.
1. Jesus taught people that how we say things is often as important as what we say. The Lord knew that a harsh word stirs up anger, but a soft word turns away wrath. (Prov. 15:1)
Application: When we are able to speak in a kindly tone we are able to avoid unnecessarily irritating our listeners.
2. Jesus criticized the Pharisees for pretending to serve the Lord with their lips while failing to give their heartfelt commitment to God. Jesus said, "You nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:
‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’" (Matt. 15:6-9)
Christ hated the sin of pretension. He taught that thinking Christians should first ask God for help in deciding what to say before speaking. The Lord Jesus chastened the Pharisees for using cleverly crafted words to manipulate special advantages for themselves.
Application: When you speak, do it as to the Lord rather than to please people.
3. Jesus spoke in such a way that His followers identified Him with His speech. The Good Shepherd said,
Application: We develop a reputation based upon how we speak and reply to people’s requests. Learn to speak in a way that is consistently loving, gracious and truthful.
4. Jesus warned people that they could discredit themselves by inappropriate, untrue or unloving words. Jesus said,
"Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart and these make a man unclean. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander." (Matt.15:17,18)
Application: Each person is responsible for speaking in a responsible manner that reflects a consideration for other people’s feelings, concerns and perspectives.
5. Jesus was admired for not only what He said, but why He said it, how He spoke and because His words came from an authoritative source.
"When Jesus finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because He taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law." (Matt. 7:28,29)
Application: The Lord spoke in a way that sharply contrasted with the predictable speaking of other teachers. The Lord spoke with such conviction, vitality and energy that people knew He was communicating a message from God.