Is Speech All Bad?
As I look back on my other posts, I notice that I have focused heavily on the danger of speech. More specifically, I have concentrated on the many sins that manifest themselves through speech. As I’ve pondered more recently, I think I need to reflect on the flip side to that coin. Speech is not innately evil. You might get that impression from reading my blogs, but it isn’t true. Dr. Luke says in the 6th chapter that of his gospel, “out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks (Luke 6:45b).” That means speech isn’t the repository of sin, the heart is. In fact, if you read the rest of that text you see that clarification plainly.
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)
Point: The reality is, speech can be one of the most beautiful and powerful mediums for love, leadership, worship, comfort, and blessing. Scripture doesn’t simply warn us about the dangers of speech it exhorts us to leverage it to advance the good reign of God in this world.
The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom,
and his tongue speaks justice. (Psalm 37:30)
The tongue of the righteous is choice silver;
the heart of the wicked is of little worth. (Proverbs 10:20)
Being forced to take a season of complete silence is frustrating in good ways and bad ways. What do I mean? I mean, it is frustrating that I can’t talk up my strengths and minimize my weaknesses (bad, and I’ve already written about these). Also, it is frustrating not being able to read to my girls at night, sing them songs before bed, give tender encouragement when they are hurting, lead worship, offer words of compassion to the hurting, and more. I recommend silence as a meaningful and transformative spiritual discipline. I think the intentional use of silence can help a person uproot sins of the tongue. With that said, make plans to care for your loved ones before practicing some disciplines like silence. Your voice has become a part of other peoples world and removing it for a season puts pressure on them. That reality, in itself, demonstrates the redeemable elements of speech. As a side note, the only time I have been moved to tears during this past few weeks was when my little Piper (4 years old) begged me to read her a book before bed, and I had to use my phone’s mechanical, unloving voice to tell her, no. She didn’t fully understand, and it broke my heart!
Above I wrote a bit of a thesis statement: Scripture doesn’t simply warn us about the dangers of speech it exhorts us to leverage it to advance the good reign of God in this world. Let me unpack what I mean by that.
Speech is an extension of one’s kingdom. Speech is either an invasion of another kingdom or a welcome ally in foreign lands. I confess much of my writing will quote Dallas Willard because I’ve been reading several of his works lately. Willard defines the kingdom of God as, “the range of God’s effective will.” Like God’s kingdom, we also have a kingdom (country/culture) and our bodies are the primary sphere of that kingdom. Your kingdom is the space where your will is effective. The voice plays a huge role in expanding your territory and interacting with other kingdoms. The entire body is, but the voice is the most common tool that we use to inflect our kingdom into another person’s kingdom. You take that voice away, and your country feels like it is shrinking around you.
When I raise my voice, I am trying to puff up my kingdom into where I think it should be. Let that idea sink in for a while. Every time you speak the sound waves enter into another person’s domain. Those sound waves can be efforts to collaborate, weapons meant to destroy, or supplies of relief to a kingdom in turmoil.
The primary message that Jesus preached was the kingdom of heaven or kingdom of God. As Christians, we are within the range of God’s effective will. We are in fact, called to advance the range of that effective will. Our voices are meant for that!
So here is the beauty of speech; when it is used the way it was intended, it can expand the range of God’s goodness, grace, love, mercy, peace, justice, and life into other peoples lives. THAT IS AMAZING! The only way that works is when we relinquish the effort to advance our kingdom and instead take up the flag of the kingdom of God and promote it. Oh, how I wish that I would do this more often. If I am secure in Christ, and I trust HIS ability to advocate for me, I am free to use all the elements of my kingdom to advance God’s. And let’s be honest, God’s kingdom is way better than mine anyway.
So yes, the voice can be a beautiful thing, and I hope to use it more and more for the glory of God and less and less for the glory of me.
Our kingdoms are far smaller then we think they are, and efforts to expand them are more damaging to other kingdoms then we like to admit. What is the range of your effective will? In what areas of the world does your will have complete effect? Before you answer, let me ask; when was the last time you did something against your better judgment? When was the last time your will said, “don’t eat that extra helping” and your bodies longing said, “you must have it.” So there you go, the range of your effective will doesn’t even include much of your body. That is the dilemma that Paul frustratedly speaks of in Romans 7:21 and following. When we chose to advance God’s kingdom, we find ourselves in a better country than ours could ever offer.