A foolish mouth can be your undoing
Read: Matthew 12:33-37, James 1:19-27, Proverbs 15:1-7, Proverbs 15:12-18, Proverbs 15:28-31
Think about the past 24 hours. What did you spend time talking about?
In 2007, researchers at the University of Arizona found that on average men and women speak roughly 16,000 words in a day. That’s a lot of communication, and God cares about each and every word. James, Jesus’ brother, wrote that if we consider ourselves people of faith but don’t control our tongues, our beliefs are worthless.
So how do we know if we're using our words wisely? Proverbs 15 describes the difference between the way the wise and the foolish speak. Fools like to hear the sound of their own voice, speaking first and thinking later. Their words often land them in hot water. They slander others and speak highly of themselves. They despise correction and refuse good advice. The wise know how to hold their tongue, speak kindly, and share good advice.
Every word we speak is an opportunity to build others up or tear them down, to give God glory or promote our own importance. In Matthew 12:36, Jesus warns us that we will give account for every careless word we speak. So let’s not waste any more words. Take time today to be intentional about what you say.
Think of a few conversations you've had this week. Are there any careless words you need to ask someone to forgive?
How often do you listen instead of waiting to speak? What can you do to be a better listener?
Who do you know who could use some encouragement? Make time today for an encouraging text or phone call
What to do when words hurt
Read: Luke 6:35-38, Proverbs 18:21, Hebrews 3:13
“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.”
You probably remember chanting that phrase at bullies as a kid. We've all said those words, but often they don’t feel true.
Some mean words are intentional and some aren’t, but either way, they cause damage. The tongue is a powerful weapon that can be used for good or bad. Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”
Instead of getting even with those who hurt us, Luke 6:35-38 tells us to love our enemies and forgive them. Often, those who hurt us need love more than anyone else. As we consider our own words and the words others use toward us, one thing is always true: Hurting people hurt people. Behind every unkind word is a person who is hurting inside.
May our words be life to those who are hurting. May we do as Hebrews teaches and strive to be a source of encouragement to everyone around us.
When was the last time you said something you immediately regretted? What did you learn from that experience?
Is there anyone you need to forgive today? Is there anyone you need to ask to forgive you for something you said?
How to get your foot out of your mouth
Read: James 3:1-12
You’re horrified as you realize the words that just came out of your mouth and wonder how you could have possibly let them slip.
How many times have we put our feet in our mouths? A dozen? A hundred? If controlling it seems hard, that’s because it is.
What we say shows the condition of our hearts. And while it’s important to be careful to use words that bring glory to God, it’s the unfiltered words — the ones we don’t catch before they come out — that are the most telling. Instead of just making a conscious effort to censor our words, we need to examine our hearts to find the root of the problem. Are our first reactions criticism? Judgment? Greed? Insensitivity? Then the Lord wants us to grow in grace, love, generosity, and encouragement. Controlling the tongue starts with a change in our hearts.
When we fully understand the way God loves us, our hearts begin to look more and more like His. We’ll still put our feet in our mouths now and then, but we’ll see it as a prompt to let the Lord work. When our hearts look like God's heart, our words point others to Him.
Your words can ease the tension
Read: 2 Samuel 19:41-43, 2 Samuel 20
Two children grow up in the same home sharing the same environment. They know each other well, so they always get along with each other, right? Not so much.
Brothers and sisters are often in competition with each other — aiming to be first (or at least not last), striving to be the favorite, fighting to make more decisions than the other. You get the idea. Sometimes, sibling rivalries continue into adulthood and create ongoing family stress.
During David’s time, God’s people were divided into two kingdoms: Israel in the north and Judah in the south. The differences and rivalries between the two kingdoms had been building for generations. David’s ancestor Jacob (later named Israel by God) had 12 sons by as many as four mothers. These sons became the “fathers” of the 12 tribes of Israel. Eventually, the 12 family clans began to pull together in two larger opposing groups: the separate kingdoms of Israel and Judah.
In 2 Samuel 19, the two kingdoms are on the brink of war. They needed wisdom and a better next step if bloodshed would be avoided. Then, in 2 Samuel 20:16, a wise woman spoke up. She worked with the leader of David’s army to avoid widespread destruction. Women were unlikely negotiators at this time, but godly wisdom doesn’t care who delivers it.
Think about your relationships. Look for places to give or accept godly wisdom to produce peace and harmony instead of conflict and destruction.
What “sibling rivalries” do you see in the church or among God’s people today?
Do you feel you are in competition with other Christians in some way? What causes that feeling?
What’s one next step you can take today to be like the wise woman and bring peace to a tense situation?
Will you take a stand?
Read: 2 Chronicles 22, 2 Chronicles 23
Have you ever felt you should speak up or take a stand, but weren’t sure you had the courage to do it? Maybe your coworker was blaming someone else for her mistake, or you saw a student being bullied at school. Maybe someone close to you was bashing Jesus and His church. When you felt the tug at your heart to do something or say something, how did you respond?
Jehoiada the priest acted courageously by getting rid of an idolatrous ruler. Jehoiada took a stand for what was right, even though it could have cost him his life. He restored temple worship and anointed a new king. Confronting the king or queen with the demands of God’s law was the role of every priest. Unfortunately, too many let cowardice get the better of them and backed down from their duty. Jehoiada, on the other hand, chose to be bold and courageous, to make a difference.
God calls all of us to a make a difference, and we have an enemy whose mission is to stop us. Satan is the master at keeping us quiet and timid. He wants us to feel defeated, discouraged, and ultimately, destroy our lives. But God wants us to act boldly, taking a stand for what we know is right to make a difference in His name, the same way Jehoiada did. God calls us for a higher purpose than to sit back and be timid. We represent Him with our actions, and if we ask Him, He will give us the courage we need to take a stand.
What is one situation where God is calling you to speak out? Have you acted courageously or cowardly?
What is one step you can take today to act courageously in that situation
When to encourage and when to rebuke
Read: 1 Corinthians 5:1-13, Titus 2:11-15
When we love someone, we want what's best for them. As a result, we often hold those we love to a higher standard than anyone else. Martin Luther King, Jr., once said,
"There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love."
We see truth play out in the discipline of a loving parent. Remember the look on your parents’ faces when you let them down or misbehaved? The physical pain of discipline fades, but even as you age, I bet you can still see the look of disappointment in their eyes.
Parents who love their children want them to make good decisions. They celebrate when their kids do the right thing and discipline their kids when they're wrong. Discipline is never fun — just ask any parent. But without love and discipline, we would never learn right from wrong.
Just as we mature emotionally through love and discipline, we also grow up spiritually through love and discipline. Encouragement and rebuke are both necessary for us to mature in our faith. When we're sinning, we need other people to love us enough to tell us. And when we see sin in the lives of fellow Christians, we need to love them enough to correct them. Fear can prevent us from holding one another accountable to what we say we believe. But, we have to be more concerned about the damage sin can do than we are about the difficulty of an awkward conversation.
Titus 2:15 tell us to “...encourage and rebuke with all authority.” We are responsible for encouraging one another in the faith. We also have the authority to rebuke one another when necessary. We love our friends and family best when we help them identify, confess, and walk away from sin.
Who cheers you on when you take a next step in your walk with Jesus? When was the last time you cheered on someone else?