How To Tell When There’s An Infection In Your Heart
When a young child acts cranky or listless, his or her mom normally pops a thermometer into the kid’s mouth or scans the child’s forehead with a device that reveals the body’s temperature. If the temp is much above 98.6 degrees, the mother knows there’s an infection of some sort on the inside that needs medical attention. No matter why we visit the doctor’s office, a nurse usually takes our temperature. That’s because body temperature is a vital sign of physical health. A reading above the norm signals trouble somewhere in the body and prompts the doctor to diagnose the illness.
Similarly, the tongue is a vital sign of spiritual health.
Our speech patterns provide a good indicator of the condition of our hearts. The nature of our conversations shows whether or not there’s an infection in the heart that needs immediate attention. Here’s how Jesus put it: “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45, emphasis mine).
Awareness of this truth, combined with the Holy Spirit’s conviction over something inappropriate I had said, inspired this poem.
Words from the Heart
My words aren’t always soft or sweet.
I’ve said things labeled indiscreet.
When I’m not Spirit-filled I’m prone
to couch my words in toxic tone.
With feelings worn upon my sleeve
come words I wish I could retrieve.
I regret times that I’ve been caught
speaking without engaging thought.
I must not underestimate
how deeply my words penetrate.
Everything a person hears
goes to the heart, not just the ears.
Let my words give comfort and grace
and put a smile upon the face
of all who hear the things I say.
Let my words help, not hurt, I pray.
Yes, I must guard my wayward heart,
for that is where the wrong words start.
The problem is not with my speech.
It’s putting God far out of reach.
It’s prayerlessness. I can’t afford
to rely on self and not the Lord.
My tongue is far too wild to tame
unless God’s glory is my aim.
Guidelines for Daily Conversation
Ephesians 4:29 teems with practical guidelines that help me evaluate my daily conversations. More than once, the Holy Spirit has reminded me of this verse and prevented me from sinning with what I was about to say. He has also employed this verse to prompt me to speak words of encouragement or comfort to someone: “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification, according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear” (NASB).
“Unwholesome” speech refers to impure or coarse language, as well as to any word that is inappropriate or unfit for the occasion. “According to the need of the moment” refers to timely words that help meet a need in either the person hearing us, or in a third party about whom we are talking. The term “gracious” suggests that God expects us to treat others better than they deserve with words—a helpful guideline when we are talking to or about someone who has hurt or mistreated us. By delving into the background of key words in Ephesians 4:29, I formulated these questions to assist me in evaluating my conversations.
Are my words impure or unwholesome, unfit for this occasion?
Do my words build up or tear down the person to whom I’m talking, or about whom I’m talking?
Do these words meet an existing need in the person to whom I’m talking, or about whom I’m talking?
Do my words give grace to the person with whom I’m speaking, or to the person about whom I’m talking?
What do recent conversations at work, among friends, at home or over the phone reveal about the state of your heart? Have you said anything that requires confession before God or to another person? I strongly encourage you to memorize Ephesians 4:29, so God’s Spirit has raw material to work with when He needs to convict you or to nudge you to minister to someone with words.
If you are a family member or friend of someone who is depressed, think through the implications of these guidelines for what you say, and how you say it, when you are with that person. Even well-intentioned Christians sometimes say the wrong things to the despondent person, weighing him or her down with false guilt and increasing the despair. If you want to learn how a depressed person perceives verbal messages, ask your depression-prone friend or relative (ideally when this person is not in a depressive episode) these questions:
What remarks about your depression have you heard from others that buoyed your spirit and instilled hopefulness?
What insensitive or superficial statements have others made to you that frustrated rather than reassured you?
Offer this prayer to God:
Father, I can’t think of what to say to You about sins of my tongue that’s any more appropriate than what King David prayed in Psalm 19:14. So as I repeat his utterance to You today, please work within me to make it happen: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” In the name of Your Son, the only person who never sinned with words, amen.
The Word on Our Words
Psalm 39:1 “I said, ‘I will guard my ways, that I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth as with a muzzle’.”
Proverbs 10:19 “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.”
Colossians 4:6 “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”
The Sound of Silence
“Do not speak unless you can improve the silence.” Former U. S. Senator Edmund Muskie