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O Be Careful Little Tongue What You Say

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An essential trait to possess in every realtionship is controlled speech that seeks to build up instead of destroy.

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Introduction

I want to begin this morning by asking you a very simple question...
This past year, if someone had paid you ten dollars for every kind word you ever spoke about other people, and also collected five dollars for every unkind word, would you be rich or poor? Green, M. P. (Ed.). (1989). Illustrations for Biblical Preaching: Over 1500 sermon illustrations arranged by topic and indexed exhaustively (Revised edition of: The expositor’s illustration file). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
When I was a child growing up in JOY Club ministries and going to Sunday School, one of the songs we used to sing regularly was O Be Careful Little Eyes What You See…(sing it a little)…one of the verses was O be careful little tongue what you say…
This morning we are resuming our study on relationships and the need to build them God’s way…what we are doing in this series is looking at 6 essential traits to possess in every relationship…regardless of what other people do or say…the child of God is expected to be different in how they interact with others…there are certain characteristics the child of God ought to exhibit on a regular basis…the first one we looked at was Grace…every child of God ought to be displaying and dispensing grace with abundance.
Because God has been so marvelously gracious to you, you have no right to hold others hostage to their offenses through your bitterness.
Every relationship needs to be handled with grace. We looked at a number of different passages to gain a better understanding of grace towards us and one of the ones we noticed was...
Colossians 3:13 NASB95
bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.
That requires you and I choosing to be gracious…to show grace even when its hard and you don’t feel like it.
Today we want to examine another essential trait…encouragement…to be an encouragement to others you have to use this little organ in your mouth called the tongue…and by the way…in this age of social media, email, texting, etc. your fingers and thumbs become an extension of your tongue…God gives us specific instruction regarding what spews forth from our lips...
I am curious here this morning…how many of you would be willing to admit that you suffer from “tongue brain speed dismorphia” …your tongue often moves faster than your mind…your words come out faster than you wanted them to...
Perhaps you are like the young man who supposedly went to the great Greek philosopher Socrates to learn oratory. On being introduced, he talked so incessantly that Socrates asked for double fees. “Why charge me double?” said the young fellow. “Because,” said the orator, “I must teach you two sciences: the one is how to hold your tongue, and the other is how to speak. Green, M. P. (Ed.). (1989). Illustrations for Biblical Preaching: Over 1500 sermon illustrations arranged by topic and indexed exhaustively (Revised edition of: The expositor’s illustration file). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

Main Point…The child of God must be careful to build relationships with speech that encourages.

With that in mind I would like us to focus on our primary text this morning. Please turn to Ephesians 4:29.
Ephesians 4:29 NASB95
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.
As you are turning there I want to point out Ephesians 4:1
Ephesians 4:1 NASB95
Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,
As children of God there is an expectation of life change…change in thought, change in actions, change in speech…our lives are to be lived in very specific ways that clearly communicate we have been changed by the life giving power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
This morning we want to focus our attention on the difference the gospel ought to make on our speech…it is one of those passages that if we consistently obeyed would eliminate many conflicts.
We need to be building Christ-Centered relationships with the essential trait of encouragement.
Read Eph 4:29.
Ephesians 4:29 NASB95
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.
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. ESV
Let’s organize our thoughts around two objectives of encouragement . The first of which is …

I. Encouraging speech seeks to be Biblical

A. Stop speaking with destructive words

Eph 4:29 gives us a put off and put on pattern...
In v. 29 we see we are commanded to put off “unwholesome” words.
“unwholesome” is the Greek Word “sapros” meaning “bad, worthless, rotten, harmful”...
What is in the well of the heart will come up through the bucket of the mouth. The speech of the believer should be on the high plane of instructing and communicating encouragement to other believers...McGee, J. V. (1991). Thru the Bible commentary: The Epistles (Ephesians) (electronic ed., Vol. 47, p. 132). Nashville: Thomas Nelson..
Notice the command…do not let any words that are bad, worthless, rotten, harmful proceed from your mouth…many of us in here would do well to keep the lid on the bucket of our mouth…its the Thumper principle…remember the movie Bambi…Thumper the rabbit says his momma told him “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all”
Every word or thought that proceeds from our tongue (or fingertips) needs to be evaluated by this Biblical principle
So what kind of words does the Bible say we are to put off that would fit “unwholesome” words…we’re not just talking about cussing…we’re talking about speech that is

1. Frontal Attack – Words that seek to hurt someone directly

Proverbs 12:18 NASB95
There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, But the tongue of the wise brings healing.
Are you like that with your tongue…rash, reckless, using it as weapon of destruction…you use words that are harsh and critical meant to destroy and cut and inflict damage.
These words are a frontal attack…they are abusive...
Colossians 3:8 NASB95
But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.
Words said to a spouse like, “I wish I had not married you.” “I think it would be best to get a divorce.” “I would be attracted to you if you lost 25 pounds.”
These words are meant to hurt and in the vast majority of the cases they do.
Even if your attacks have not been that aggressive you can probably think of times where you said what you said in order to hurt your spouse.
Words from parents to their children.. “you will never amount to anything.” “stupid, worthless, you’re an idiot, you annoy me.”
Friends, those words crush your children.
You young people … you have done the same thing with your parents. You know exactly how to hurt them. There have been times you have gone right for the jugular.
Of course, the relationship was damaged, it was hurt, and you accomplished exactly what you want to accomplish. Another type of harmful word is …

2. Deflection – Words that open a new topic – a topic where you have the advantage

Proverbs 10:19–20 NASB95
When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, But he who restrains his lips is wise. The tongue of the righteous is as choice silver, The heart of the wicked is worth little.
What happens in the abundance of words is you skirt around the issue with other topics because the original topic is not pleasant for you…you are clearly wrong. You clearly need to ask for forgiveness. But, you don’t want to do that, so instead of applying wisdom and restraining your lips…you bring up other issues that will place you in a better position.
In the abundance of words we tend to turn the conversation to our advantage by bringing up their past failures and sins. Instead of dealing with our part of the problem, we want them to shoulder a greater responsibility for the conflict, so we use words that deflect the blame on them.
We see this in arguments all the time. The place where people end the argument is totally different than the place it began.
We started talking about getting the car fixed and all the sudden we are on to the cleanliness of the home, the ability to buy groceries or pay the bills, and the lack of date nights or absence of flowers over the past 6 months.
I am not saying that those topics are not legitimate issues to discuss, but when they are brought up in order to put you in the advantage in a conversation they are words that harm rather than build up.

3. Intimidation – Words that are vulgar and aggressive

Ephesians 5:4 NASB95
and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.
Romans 14:19 NASB95
So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.
There is nothing encouraging, edifying or peaceful about a foul mouthed person.
Listen carefully. These types of words are sinful and ungodly.
According to the text (“no”) these words should not be used.
Here’s the sad part...these are the words that you wanted to use whenever you used them…you can’t get away with “i was just joking” or “i didn’t really mean it.”
Look with me at what Jesus taught in Matthew 12…(turn to Matthew 12)
Matthew 12:33–37 NASB95
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. “You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. “The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. “But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
I wonder how many here this morning have been a little or a lot too cavalier with their tongue and have used some words in the office, in the classroom, at play or at home that God would deem careless speech…vulgar and aggressive speech...You thought nothing of it then…Jesus says here there will be a day of accounting for what was said.

There is a direct channel from your heart to your mouth that defies gravity… whatever is in your heart flows freely up that channel and out of your mouth…so if you want to live worthy of the gospel, you better make sure that what occupies your heart is good and fitting with the character of Christ...sooner or later, the gate to your heart will open up and whatever is built up in your heart will take the path of least resistance.

Corruption from the lips only means there is corruption in the heart...Wiersbe, W. W. (1992). Wiersbe’s expository outlines on the New Testament (p. 550). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
I am asking you to evaluate your speech right now…I am pleading with you to go to the Lord right now and ask Him to help you repent, confess your sin to Him and beg Him to change your heart so that the second part of this verse is what characterizes all the things that come out of your mouth.
That is the put off or the “don’t” side of this passage. The other side is that we must use

B. Start using words that build up and encourage

Ephesians 4:29 NASB95
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.
The word edification here is used in the sense of building, bringing something closer to completion…understood as if assisting in the construction of an incomplete building.
This is the “put on” of the text…you need to stop and think before you speak understanding that God is at work trying to build the character of Christ in them and you…and the words you are about to speak can either continue that process God started or tear it down...
After the text emphasizes the importance of not using harmful words, it explains that our new life in Jesus is supposed to be characterized by words that build up and encourage.
Colossians 4:6 NASB95
Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.
Proverbs 18:21 NASB95
Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.
Your words have power either for good or for evil…for life or death…for building up or destroying...do your words draw people closer to Christ or repel them?
That is one of the ways that we live out the gospel
It is one of the ways that we live worthy of the gospel
We need to look at the act of encouraging as geese flying in a V-shaped formation.
When geese migrate they can be seen flying in a V-shaped formation. While to us on the ground it is a thing of beauty, to the geese it is an essential for survival. If you watch them, you will observe that at certain intervals, relative to the strength of the head wind, the lead bird—who was doing the most work by breaking the force of wind—will drop off and fly at the end of the formation.
The reason for this is that the V-formation is much more efficient than flying lose; up to 60 percent less work is required! It has been discovered that the flapping wings create an uplift of air, an effect that is greater at the rear of the formation. So the geese take turns “uplifting” one another. By cooperating—working together—the geese can achieve long migrations that would otherwise be exceedingly difficult for the strongest and deadly for the others.
In a similar manner, when believers in Christ actively uplift one another through prayer, sharing material means, and heart-to-heart friendship and caring, they can go further into godliness than if they attempt their pilgrimage alone.
Green, M. P. (Ed.). (1989). Illustrations for Biblical Preaching: Over 1500 sermon illustrations arranged by topic and indexed exhaustively (Revised edition of: The expositor’s illustration file). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
The text goes on to qualify these building up words…

C. Use words that fit the situation and circumstances

I love these words, “according to the need of the moment.”
Different moments require different kinds of encouragement which means we have to do a better job of being aware of the needs and discerning what needs to be said and what doesn’t need to be said.
Ecclesiastes 10:12 NASB95
Words from the mouth of a wise man are gracious, while the lips of a fool consume him;
Proverbs explains this same principle on multiple occasions.
Proverbs 15:23 NASB95
A man has joy in an apt answer, And how delightful is a timely word!
Proverbs 25:11 NASB95
Like apples of gold in settings of silver Is a word spoken in right circumstances.
delightful is a timely word.” “apples of gold in settings of silver.” Just as your words have the power to do harm, so they have the power to do good, if we learn to use them at the right time.
When you get home from work and you see your wife attempting to make dinner while holding an 8 week old who is screaming his or her head off, that is not the right time to ask questions like “How was your day?” [How does it look my day is going, moron?]
“What are we having for dinner?” [that is a particularly dangerous question if she happens to be holding a sharp knife in her hand]
“Hey, I was looking at our schedule this month, and I was wondering whether you wanted to have 40 people over to our house next week.” [a response too that might involve all kinds of bad things].
In fact, the only words that she is really interested in hearing at that moment are, “Can I please take the baby and care for his needs?” Nothing else mattered.
Or guys, when your wife meets you at the door with tears in her eyes it is not time for a deep theological discussion.
It is time for a hug.
Then it is time to find out how you can serve her.
Friends, I want you to live worthy of the gospel. I want you to work to live out every day the fact that you have been saved by grace. In order to accomplish that, you must learn to use words that fit the situation and the circumstances. We also see in this passage …

D. Use words that will result in a positive response to the hearers.

good for edification
so that it will give grace to those who hear...
Are you hearing what this passage is saying…do the words that come out of your mouth result in others being helped or hurt...
Proverbs 12:25 NASB95
Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, But a good word makes it glad.
The passage commands us not to use the harmful language but rather to use language that is good for building up. Here is how you know you did it right … when it gives grace to the hearers.
This relates to giving the hearers something of benefit to them, possibly based on a need that they have.

God’s desire is that the words that proceed from our mouths are a conduit of grace, not a weapon of destruction.

The point is that the people we talk to are actually in a better place because we talked to them.
Look at James 3:6-10
James 3:6–10 NASB95
And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.
You can either choose to use your tongue as an instrument of construction or weapon of destruction...
Ephesians 4:29 is a mouthful all by itself, but lets also look at times in the Bible where encouragement is needed...

II.Encouraging speech seeks to be Timely...

A. When the person is fainthearted

1 Thessalonians 5:14 NASB95
We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
I think many believers are as good at shooting their wounded as are those without Christ.
It is true in people’s homes
Some parents are so hard on their kids that they live in constant fear of the next problem. They have school problems, health problems, identity problems because there is no encouragement.
You take their “fainthearted” position and you use it against them. The end result is that you create a huge divide in your relationship.
It is true in people’s workplaces. Some of you are at the top of the food chain in your office. You have responsibilities to make sure things are done well and they are well oiled.
But listen to me, if your view is that the things they do right are simply what they should do and I am going to tell them about all they did wrong – you will not accomplish all that could be accomplished.
Even coming to church can be done with different motivations. You can come to church as a consumer or you can come as a participant…your presence in God’s house should never be limited to your need to worship, learn and grow…you also need to be involved in finding people you need to greet, people you need to check on, and people you need to find to see if things are better.
Those who are fainthearted need words of encouragement. They need to believe that someone is caring for them, interested in them, and willing to help them.

B.When someone is deceived by sin

Hebrews 3:13–14 NASB95
But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end,
people sin for lots of reasons.
Now I realize that for some sin has deceived them, it is has tricked them into thinking that what is bad is actually good.
While sin needs to be stopped regardless of the reason, the motivation for sin impacts how you and I deal with people.

C. When someone is dealing with hard faith questions

1 Thessalonians 5:11 NASB95
Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.
In 1 Thess. 4 and 5 there were many people struggling with what happens to believers who already died or thinking that the Day of the Lord has already come. Both sections of text end with the words to encourage one another.
People who are struggling with hard faith questions need to be encouraged with the truth found in Scripture.

Lesson for Life...Fill your heart with what you want to come out of your mouth.

To eliminate the harmful speech from your mouth you have to eliminate the harmful thoughts in your heart…by choosing to have a heart filled with grace you guarantee a mouth that speaks and ministers grace to those who hear…by choosing to speak the truth in love you and those around you will mature in Christ and the body will be strengthened.
Ephesians 4:15 NASB95
but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,
Ephesians 4:16 NASB95
from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

Every Christ-centered relationship must be built on grace and filled with speech that encourages and builds others up in Him.

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