One of the maladies that I face in my life is that I engage my mouth too often without fully engaging my mind as to what I am going to say. That particular malady results in another and that is that I find my foot often lodged in my mouth shortly after the first malady manifests itself. Needless to say today's proverb was eye-opening to say the least. I learned that what truly needs to be engaged before I speak is my heart - which is to be what instructs my mouth before it engages in saying what "ought" to be said.
The heart of a wise man instructs his mouth what to say. Some might say that if this were the case all we would say is, "thump, thump" in a rythmic fashion. (Oops, there I go again!) But the Hebrew concept of the heart is a wondeful one. The heart refers to the immaterial inner self - or what the Holy Spirit would refer to as man's spirit. This is considered by the Hebrew mind to be our inner nature - the workings of our mind as it is instructed by the Holy Spirit using as His primary text, the Word of God. Thus the mouth is instructed by none other than the Holy Spirit Himself - who takes the Word and uses it to instruct us, through our spirit, so that our mind is taught. This working then brings to our mind things that should be filtered out - or in some cases filtered in.
Scripture, for example, instructs us in Colossians 4:6, "Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person." What a great instruction for our mouths. Therefore, as the Spirit does this He asks us, "Hey Bubba (sorry, I live in Arkansas and this is pretty effective here), is what you are going to say gracious? Does it have a little 'salt of the gospel' in it - so that it will make whoever is hearing you thirsty for God - and the gospel?" Something else the Spirit of God might ask is this, "Yo Bubbba, did you think about what this person truly and lovingly NEEDS - or - are you just spouting off what you want to say to them?" These are things that will truly alter how you speak - because in all honesty - not even our words belong to us. We were bought with a price - therefore we are to glorify God with our bodies - which, by the way, includes our mouths!
Here is another way our mouth can be instructed by the wisdom of the Spirit of God. He may choose to remind us of Ephesians 4:29 which says, "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear." So this time the Spirit of God may chime in with something like this. "Dude (this is when I am in California), is what you are going to say wholesome, or does it smell like rotten fruit or nasty-smelling fish! Are you going to build up your friend - or just confirm him in the same worldly ways that his other friends speak? Like, you totally need to think about what he NEEDS right now! Have you even heard what HE'S been saying at a heart level in this conversation and others? Don't be a total bogart man - give him some grace - some love brother - some real helpful, encouraging, gospel-smelling stuff!"
Now, apart from the regionalization of all this in my language - there are a few VERY important things we can learn from just these two examples. We learn how the Scriptures would be used by the Holy Spirit to instruct our mouths. First, note that in both examples the Lord wants to instruct us to think of others as we open our mouths. Second, note as well in both examples that the Lord wants us to have our words abound with grace as we speak. Lastly, there is either stated or implied that our words are to be used to build others up - not tear them down. You can take these three things to the verbal-bank! We ought to write them on the inside of our mouths, so to speak, so that we are reminded that any word that proceeds out of them should be - 1) others-minded, 2) filled with grace and the gospel, and 3) encouraging! Can you imagine the difference that would make in a matter of days in the things we say!?
The rest of today's proverb reminds us that when we do this - our hearts will help us to have additional "persuasiveness" added to everything we say. I have known people like this in my life - and they are amazing people. They are the E.F. Hutton's of the spiritual world - and in many ways the world in general. When they speak - people listen! The amazing thing is that this is not because they have "earth-shaking" things to say every time they open their mouths. It is more because you will be blessed and uplifted whenever they speak! You want to hear what they say - because it nourishes your very soul to hear it.
Precious ones . . . let us not be people whose mouths are instructed by our culture - or by our own selfish motives - or by the evil one who would love to use our mouths for his own destructive purposes. Let us be people of the grace-filled, love-overflowing, life-encouraging, Spirit-instructed mouth! Let us embrace hearing what our hearts have to say about what words we should use. And as we listen to this soul-nourishing instruction for our mouths - may we submit our hearts to be ruled and governed by the Holy Spirit of God. May His tutelage dominate our conversations, our statements, and our answers so that others may be blessed - made thirsty for the God who speaks through us - and hungry for the same gospel grace that has changed our hearts, which is the very reason that our conversation is so different!