Scarlet Macaw at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Weighing the heart behind your words

Have you ever said something you didn’t mean? I do it frequently–more frequently than I care to admit. Mostly that’s because I have a really sarcastic sense of humor, and I’m fortunate to be surrounded by so many people who understand me. And the know that most of the time when I’m shooting my mouth off, I’m not really serious about what I’m saying.

Don’t you find it interesting that there’s a perceived difference between what people say and what they actually mean? We live in a culture of sarcasm and wit, and I think sometimes we say things we don’t mean to get a laugh, to catch someone’s attention, to make a point. But what matters more? What you actually say or what you actually mean?

Scarlet Macaw at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Scarlet Macaw at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is 1 Samuel 16:7.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

The Bible is pretty clear over and over again (not just in this Old Testament verse) that God looks at people in a different way than we do. What I love about this passage is that it deals with a human perspective versus God’s perspective.

God didn’t care that David’s brother was tall, dark, and handsome; he didn’t have the heart to be kind. Not like David.

God cares about the outside, sure. He’s as much responsible for the outside as He is for the inside. But because we can only experience what’s on the outside, that’s what we tend to judge by.

How does this person dress? How does this person speak? How does this person look? Suspect or clean shaven? Respectable or sketchy? We make judgment calls like that all the time, and in many cases those decisions are wise.

But when it comes to following God, it’s so much better to pay attention to the inside instead of the outside. Granted, we can’t see the inside. But God can. And that’s a sobering fact to remember.

Have you ever thought about the fact that maybe God isn’t listening to the words you actually say? What if He doesn’t care about what you actually say–they’re only words after all. And words are only as effective (or destructive) as the intention behind them.

How would your lifestyle change if you realized that you’d be judged on your intentions? If you were going to be held accountable not for your actions but for your purposes, what would our lives look like?

I don’t know about you, but I’d be in prison somewhere.

So what is the point of this? Well, it’s been shown over and over again throughout the Bible that God judges by the heart. And that means He knows our motivation and our purpose behind everything we say and do.

Does that make you think twice about what you were getting ready to do today?

The issue is this: in this life we are told we should be held accountable for the things we say, and I agree with that entirely. But there’s another step. There’s another problem than just not being held accountable for our words. God knows our thoughts, and we have to answer for our motivations and the state of our heart too.

Is your heart jealous? Is it hard and selfish? Is it hurt and lonely? Whatever state your heart is in right now, you can trust aren’t alone.

So the next time you think about what you’re going to say when you’re upset about something, stop for a moment and think about your thoughts. Think about why you want to say what you want to say, and you might find yourself shocked when you can’t find a reason.

Words are important. Words are essential and vital, powerful and immensely important. But what matters even more than the words themselves is your motivation for speaking them.

Sheep at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Hutchinson, KS

Words should be a gift

I love words. They’re my favorite topic of study, my favorite tools to use, my favorite everything. And it doesn’t matter what language either. Words are amazing no matter what language you speak. And one of the most awesome aspect of words is unfortunately also their most dangerous; Words have power.

At least, words have the power we give them. You’ve heard people say that words have weight, that words can cut, that words can bring life. It’s true. The things we choose to say will either help or hurt, and as Christ followers we need to be able to keep a hold of our mouths.

The cause of my foul language, Sheep at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Hutchinson, KS

The cause of my foul language, Sheep at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Hutchinson, KS

Today’s verse is Ephesians 4:29.

Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.

When I was little, I thought this verse was talking about cursing. And I’m sure that cursing is one of those usages of words that isn’t really necessary, but I have realized something as I’ve worked with many international offices and people from other countries. You do realize that curse words aren’t the same from culture to culture, right? Words that are horribly offensive in American culture are just normal words elsewhere and vice versa. So you can’t point fingers at a handful of words and call them foul. No. You have to know what those words mean and understand their usage.

Some of the most hurtful words in our language aren’t curses. They are words used to tear other people down. They are negative words spoken by negative or insecure people in order to make themselves feel better at the expense of others around them. You can know someone who never curses but who is still foul and abusive because of the way they use their “good words” to hurt people.

All I’m saying is that we shouldn’t point fingers at curse words while we alter the heart of other words in order to damage people.

God gave us words so that we could be a blessing to people. Words are supposed to be a gift we give to others. Too often we twist them around and turn them into something they were never intended to be. People get hurt. Friendships get broken. Marriages are destroyed. Hearts are scarred. And that’s not why God gave us language.

So think about what you say before you say it. Check your attitude before you speak. Ask yourself if what you’re about to say will help someone or hurt someone? Consider what you’re about to say from every angle and weigh the consequences, because once you say it, you can’t take it back. Oh, yes, you can apologize for it, but that isn’t as good as not saying it to begin with.