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Operation: Dinner Out

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OPERATION: DINNER OUT  --  Devotional

Wednesday, April 18, 20075:30 p.m.

Scripture often compares our words to food.  Proverbs 16:24 says that pleasant “words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.”  We’re going to be eating food tonight that will probably be really good to our taste buds, and will bring our bodies needed nourishment, but let’s not forget the more important thing, the all-surpassing goodness of words that please the Lord and minister to others.

Our theme this year is focused on our speech.  Proverbs 18:21 says that “Death and life are in the power of the tongue,” and Matthew 12:34 ups the ante by explaining that what we say is a product of what we are in our hearts.  When we have speech problems, it’s because we have heart problems.

Back in February, Steph defined from Scripture the kind of speech we’re not to use.  We are to avoid talking too much, arguing/debating to cause disunity, perverse words or habits of speech, bitter words that cause pain to others, lying, and gossip.  But lest you think the Bible only tells us what not to say, it does have plenty of positive things to say on the subject.  In March, we watched One Night With The King, a dramatization of the book of Esther.  We saw how Esther wisely kept her mouth shut…and then how she spoke wisely and calmly to the king, and how God used her obedience to protect His people.  The story of Esther is, in part, a picture of the truth of Proverbs 31:26.

She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

Proverbs 31:10-31 is one of the most loved and most hated passages of Scripture.  We all want to be this woman, but we despair of ever actually succeeding.  Well, I’ve got good news and bad news.  The bad news is that one author says that “being committed to our homes…supporting our husbands…giving generously to charity, and bringing in income are all easy—compared to opening our mouth with wisdom and kindness.”[1]

But the good news is that this is something God clearly wants for us.  And God’s command assumes God’s enablement.  Once we get this one down, the rest of Proverbs 31 should be a piece of cake! J

Seriously, this is a difficult character quality to develop, but God wouldn’t ask it of us if He wasn’t going to help us, so let’s buckle down and get to work.

I.       She opens her mouth in wisdom.

Wisdom is the ability to apply what we know; it is “the capacity to understand and so have skill in living.”[2]  This, then, means two things:

 

A.     God’s kind of woman speaks wisely.

1.      When she speaks, what she says is wise.  She gently, sweetly, and accurately applies what she knows so that those she’s talking to gain wisdom, as well.

2.      When she speaks, her speech reflects the character of wisdom.  In Proverbs 8, Wisdom describes herself using these words:  excellent, noble, important, true, righteous, straightforward, precious, priceless, reasonable, sound, common sense, insightful, and virtuous.  When God’s kind of woman speaks, her words should be described in the same way.

B.     God’s kind of woman knows when not to open her mouth.

1.      She understands that knowledge isn’t the same as wisdom, and she avoids spouting off.

2.      She understands that just because she knows something, and even if she applies it rightly, doesn’t mean that others need to hear it just then.

3.      She understands that if what she wants to say doesn’t reflect the character of wisdom, it doesn’t need to be said.

II.    The teaching (law) of kindness is on her tongue.

A.     The Hebrew word for teaching / law is torah.  This word is used 220 times in the Old Testament.  210 times specifically reference the Scriptures.  Of the 10 uses that don’t directly reference God’s Word, a whopping 8 at least imply it.  This means that God expects our speech to reflect His Word.  For our speech to reflect His Word, we must know His Word!

 

B.     Of the over 250 uses of this Hebrew word for kindness, over 75% refer specifically to the kindness the Lord has shown to us.  When we think of kindness, we usually think of doing good to others, and the Lord certainly is kind to us in this way.  But this particular Hebrew word is almost always used in the immediate context of forgiveness or mercy.  This word describes God doing good to us by withholding from us the punishment we actually deserve.  This means that God expects our speech to reflect His character.  As we open our mouths in wisdom, we must remember to always temper what we say with the same mercy and compassion that God has shown to us.  In order for our speech to reflect God’s character, we must know Him!

 

III. Making it practical

A.     How do we do this?

We get to know God by getting to know His Word.  As we fill our minds (hearts) with the knowledge of God, the Holy Spirit uses the Holy Word to purify our hearts.  If it is true that our speech problems are only symptoms of a deeper heart problem, then it is also true that as our heart problems are corrected, so will our speech problems be corrected.  As we meditate on the Word and character of God, He will change our hearts to reflect what we learn about Him.

B.     How do we know that we’re doing this?

1.      If someone had a tape recording of your words over the past week, what would they learn about God?  Do your words bring light and grace to your listeners?

2.      Generally speaking, what do your words (even when you’re not specifically speaking about the Lord) tell others about God’s beauty and the value of knowing Him?[3]

C.     What if we’re not doing this?

1.      Consider that just as Christ died for your sinful actions, so He also died for your sinful thoughts and words.  Confess and repent of your sinful speech habits (and the sinful thought processes behind them!), and ask the Lord to teach you how to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). 

2.      Choose a verse or passage to memorize that will help you speak wisely and kindly only what needs to be said.  Ask the Lord to remind you of it as you seek to please Him in what you say.

3.      Wrong speech always occurs in the context of relationship.  Wherever possible, return to the person you hurt or harmed by your sinful speech and confess your sin to them and ask for their forgiveness, just as you asked for the Lord’s.

4.      Find someone who can keep you accountable for your speech.  You can use different people for different areas of your sphere of influence – a Christian sister at work, one at church, and even your husband or one of your children at home!

5.      God’s strengthening and sustaining grace is totally sufficient (1 Cor. 10:13; 2 Cor. 12:9)!  Don’t try to get a handle on this on your own.  And remember that God’s mercy and forgiving grace are also totally sufficient (Psalm 103:2-4), and when you fail again, He is ready and waiting to forgive you and restore fellowship.


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[1] George, E. (1998). Beautiful in God's eyes (192). Eugene, Or.: Harvest House.

[2] Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[3] Fitzpatrick, E. (2003). Helper by Design (167, 168). Chicago, Il.: Moody Publishers.

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