Apples Of Gold In Settings Of Silver
(Learning To Speak Words Of Life)
By Kim Butts
One of the most difficult areas of discipline for most people, and certainly it is true of myself, is in the area of the way we use words. My prayer is that one day every word coming out of my mouth will be "aptly spoken." The word "aptly" means appropriately, fittingly, suitably, rightly. Proverbs 25:11 says, "A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver." What a beautiful description of what every word emerging from within us should be. The Bible has much to say about our words. Nothing comes from our mouths that has not had the opportunity to pass through several filters. The speed and accuracy of these filters must work in agreement with our will. We need to choose whether or not to let loose with words that are instruments of healing and encouragement or are instead, implements of destruction and discouragement.
It is critical to teach children how to effectively utilize the filters God has given to us as protection over the words which emerge from our mouths. If we think of them as the "Father’s Filters" we can be better reminded to say things that will honor Him. Nurturing and guarding these filters is crucial to live a Jesus-focused life, producing only words that reflect His character and nature.
The Heart (Filter #1)
It is so important that our hearts be set upon Christ. Jesus said, "The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks" (Luke 6:45). The lesson here is clear. If our hearts are good, good things will come out of our mouths. If our hearts are evil, we will spew out unkind, hurtful, damaging words. Jesus also has an important warning for us: "But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned" (Matthew 12:36-37). There are consequences to every evil word that crosses our lips – not only to us, but also to others. What is in our hearts is capable of doing irreparable harm to people. Think carefully about some of the things that have been said to you in your lifetime that either encouraged you or damaged you. Children are especially susceptible to words that spill from the overflow of our hearts. They can be encouraged in the Lord, or they can be defeated and discouraged. Words from the overflow of our hearts can be used by the enemy or by the Holy Spirit in the lives of others. It is a tremendous responsibility that we must take very seriously. Truthfulness in our speech is crucial. Scripture teaches that we must put off our old self and take on the new: "Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body" (Ephesians 4:25). Teaching our children to minister to others out of the overflow of loving, kind, truth-filled hearts is crucial. They need to learn early on that their words can bring great benefit and comfort, but are also capable of great harm.
The Mind (Filter #2)
The things we think about are generally the things we speak about. Sometimes, however, words just slip out without any thought at all. Therefore, two important godly principles apply here:
Thinking correctly will help us to guard against inappropriate speech. Scripture teaches us that we should think about whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). If our minds are continually focused upon such things, we are much more likely to speak in ways that honor the Lord.
Thinking carefully before speaking will save us from saying hurtful, unkind or inappropriate things. If we take time to stop and evaluate what we are thinking before it escapes our lips we will save ourselves and others pain and embarrassment. Often we can correct ourselves in time to say the "right" thing or to simply say nothing at all. Speaking whatever comes to mind is often an expression of pride within us. When our need to be "right" supersedes what pleases the Father, our lack of careful thinking will lead us into sin. Here are some words from Scripture to help us:
"My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…" (James 1:19).
"Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few" (Ecclesiastes 5:2).
"Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore stand in awe of God" (Ecclesiastes 5:7).
"Do you see a man who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for him" (Proverbs 29:20).
The Tongue (Filter #3)
We have often heard about the importance of "holding" our tongues, or how we can keep from saying something we shouldn’t by "biting" our tongues. Both are true. If our words slip past the filters of the mind and the heart, our tongues are what keeps the words from leaving our mouths. Consider these passages of Scripture:
"If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless" (James 1:26). When we say we are followers of Christ Jesus, but our words do not reflect His character, we do great damage to His cause. If the words we say are not a reflection of what we believe in our hearts to be true, then we are contradicting the Father and literally denying our own faith before others. How can unbelievers see a difference in us when our words are wrapped up in the world?
"When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise" (Proverbs 10:19). Holding our tongues, even when we want so badly to speak exercises the wisdom of self-control. "The tongue of the righteous is choice silver" (Proverbs 10:20).
The Mouth (Filter #4)
Once words have left our mouths, we all realize that they cannot be taken back or changed, and they are capable of great damage. If we engage the filters, it is possible to alter the course of our thinking and therefore the words can be changed or stopped before they get to the point of no return.
In Ecclesiastes 10:12-14 we read, "Words from a wise man’s mouth are gracious, but a fool is consumed by his own lips. At the beginning his words are folly; at the end they are wicked madness – and the fool multiplies words." Children must learn early that their words will be either wise or foolish, and it is what comes out of their mouths that will determine how others perceive their character. The righteousness of Christ has been placed within us, and our words can either confirm or deny it.
"The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of judgment" (Proverbs 10:21). Our words can nourish others, but they can also get us in terrible trouble if we are not careful to guard them. "The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life" (Proverbs 10:11a). Don’t we all want our mouths to be "fountains of life" to others at all times? If so, we must use the Father’s filters wisely and carefully. "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer" (Psalm 19:14). Ultimately, every word we utter should be pleasing to God. He created us in His image. Therefore, we should reflect that image through our speech.
The Role of the Holy Spirit
The effective use of the Father’s filters is dependent upon listening to and obeying the Holy Spirit. He is the one who literally teaches how we should speak and what we should say. By allowing the Holy Spirit to control our hearts, our minds, our tongues and our mouths rather than seizing control over them for our own selfish reasons, we will better reflect the selflessness of Jesus, whose words were always life-giving. Here are three ways in which the Holy Spirit works within us so that our words bring life instead of death:
The Holy Spirit saves us from temptation: We have an enemy who desires to damage our witness for Jesus. Using our words seems to be one of his favorite ways to do so. Unfortunately, we are easy targets when we have not engaged the filters God has set in place. Ecclesiastes 5:6a says, "Do not let your mouth lead you into sin." If we allow Him to, the Holy Spirit will guard us from sin that comes from our words.
The Holy Spirit gives us wisdom: "This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words" (1 Corinthians 2:13). So often, we are caught up in what we want to say rather than saying what the Spirit directs us to say. James tells us that we should ask God for such wisdom, and that He will give it to us generously if we believe and do not doubt (James 1:5-6). In Proverbs 31:26, one woman is described in this way: "She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue." Wouldn’t that be a wonderful way to demonstrate the active participation of the Holy Spirit working in our lives? As parents, it is vital that we speak wisely, and faithfully instruct our children through complete dependence upon the wisdom of the Spirit. "Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning" (Proverbs 10:13a). By utilizing the Father’s filters, we will speak words of wisdom through exercising good judgment and self-control.
The Holy Spirit guards us against empty words and fills us with His power: "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power" (1 Corinthians 4:20). The Apostle Paul tells us that, "We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us" (1 Corinthians 2:12). What a wonderful promise, and what an underutilized gift! Paul continues, "This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words" (1 Corinthians 2:13). We are so quick to speak in our own human wisdom that we often forget to seek power from the Holy Spirit who gives it freely. Our words should always originate in the heart of the Spirit.
Glorify God with Every Word
"If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen" (1 Peter 4:11). Learning to guard what comes out of our mouths is critical to walking a life that emulates, and therefore honors Jesus. "He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman… He who does these things will never be shaken" (Psalm 15:2-3, 5b).
May every word spoken in your household be appropriate, fitting, suitable and right so that God is honored by your "apples of gold in settings of silver."