I think the purpose of “free speech” in the Constitution was to provide a person the freedom to speak out against the government without fear of reprisal, whether it be to our body, our wealth or our reputations. It seems to have morphed, though, in our day to the belief that I can say anything I want to say, however demeaning and wicked it is. Lies, fraud, gossip, slander, and rage are some of the results of “free speech” in our day.
King David addressed the problem in one of his songs 3,000 years ago. Some arrogant people were saying, “We will triumph with our tongues; we own our lips—who is our master?” (Psalm 12:4). They felt that they could say whatever they wanted to say without consequence. They were the “bullies” of their day. In every generation people want to be “masters of their mouths.” But for the Christ-follower, God is to be the “Master of my mouth.”
Jesus said that our mouths reveal what is in our hearts, what we value. “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45). Like a stethoscope is used by doctors to listen to the condition of a physical heart, our words reveal the condition of our spiritual heart.
Two verses that I try to follow (not always successfully) are Matthew 7:3-5 and Ephesians 4:29.
MATTHEW 7:3–5 – “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
EPHESIANS 4:29 – “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
To help me apply these verses, I try to ask myself these three questions before I speak:
- Should I change something in my life before I speak?
- Can I say what I want to say in a respectful manner?
- Will my words be destructive or constructive?
This doesn’t mean that I am never to disagree with or contradict people. Nor does it mean that I’m not to address misbehavior. But the way in which I speak is important. Jesus and the apostles often spoke out against the religious leaders of their day, but you don’t detect belligerence or rage in their voices. Too often people use intimidation to “win” arguments. The truth is that no one wins when we turn a conversation into a shouting match.
This blog is simply a reminder that God wants to be in charge of how I use my mouth.