How many times have you said something to someone and immediately wished you could take it back? Whether it was in the “heat” of the moment, the result of pent-up frustration, or we were just simply having a bad day, I would guess most, if not all of us, have had that experience at least once. Some have called it “a slip of the tongue” but is it really? The more I think about it, I keep coming back to Jesus’ words to the religious rulers of the day: “You brood of snakes! How could evil men like you speak what is good and right? For a man’s heart determines his speech. A good man’s speech reveals the rich treasures within him. An evil-hearted man is filled with venom, and his speech reveals it..” (Matt. 12:34-35, TLB).
One of my former pastors used to say that the words we speak are like water in a bucket. When someone bumps our “bucket”, i.e. offends us, whatever is inside will flow out. There is quite a lot of truth in that statement. The condition of our hearts is such that Jeremiah states it is “the most deceitful thing there is and desperately wicked. No one can really know how bad it is!” (Jeremiah 17:9). Jesus sheds light on the unregenerated heart when Mark records Him saying, “For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts of lust, theft, murder, adultery, wanting what belongs to others, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, pride, and all other [foolishness]” (Mark 7:21-22). Unless the love of God fills our heart continuously and without the exercise of much diligence and grace, the things that pour out from it can be very destructive. As we read also in the Proverbs, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but harsh words cause quarrels. . . . how wonderful it is to be able to say the right thing at the right time!” (Proverbs 15:1, 23). Saying the right thing at the right time is not always easy, but it is possible. Correction, using the right words and at the right time, can be edifying.
I quite like David’s prayer in Psalm 19:14, “May my spoken words and unspoken thoughts be pleasing even to you, O Lord my Rock and my Redeemer.” The King James translation puts it this way: “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.” Two areas of focus are the words of my mouth (my spoken words) and the meditation of my heart (my unspoken thoughts). What we think about often profoundly impact the words we speak. Paul beautifully encourages us when he writes, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8, KJV). God is so good He even tells us the things we should think/meditate on. What about our worries and our concerns? We leave those with Him (Philippians 4:6-7).
South African minister Andrew Murray once said, “[Meditation is] holding the word of God in the mind until it has affected every area of one’s life and character.” Read that sentence again, slowly. What do you meditate on? What is in your “bucket”? As we make David’s prayer our prayer, may we take Paul’s words to heart as well. Today is as good a time as any to start doing so.