Where have Truth and Civility Gone?
I want to start with Matthew 12:34:
“For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”
What comes out of our mouths? Do we think about it much? Language and speaking is so easy. Most of us have been speaking for a long time.
Look around, people are talking to each other in person, on the phone and the new speak – texting everywhere you look. Talk, talk, talk. Text, text, text.
Words that were once considered bad or foul have now become a mainstay of our everyday speech. What was once considered swear words are now no more than an additional list of adjectives to be used in everyday speech.
“The Fighter” a movie that was released about ten years ago kind of illustrates this point. Mark Wahlberg plays boxer Mickey Ward a very promising fighter from Lowell, MA who was following in the footsteps of his older half-brother Dicky Eklund. The language in the movie was “colorful” to say the least. Wahlberg was interviewed on late night TV and was asked if he thought the swearing in the movie was excessive. He laughed and said they actually toned it down for the movie.
I can tell you he’s right. I spent 27 years as a police officer in that city and swearing was no big deal. Most of the words were used as adjectives of one type or another. It’s also a very hard habit to break, believe me.
Hollywood, cable tv, social media and the music industry consider it a form of acceptable expression. Is it, really? Think for a moment on what these demonstrations of a lack of civility have had on this society. Look at the lack of respect we tend to have for one another. In addition to the words watch the gestures as you are driving.
In James 3 we see that man has been able to tame every species of animal and birds and reptiles but listen to what he says in verse 8:
“But the tongue no human being is able to tame; it is an untrainable evil, full of death-dealing poison.”
It would seem he’s right. Not only is swearing part of this but words and speech in general are consistently declining. Just watch the news. People no longer seem able to express themselves without degrading or demeaning someone else. They scream and contort their faces and can’t get their tirade out soon enough to prove their point.
In Ephesians 4:29 we’re told:
“Do not let any corrupt communication come out of your mouth…”
Our ability to continue as a nation cannot continue if we are unable to communicate civilly with one another. We can even see it in Congress where civility was once the benchmark. No more. They are certainly a reflection of the nation and if I dare say, a major contributor to this lack of civility.
If you think about it we can trace its beginnings to the systematic removal of God from the American landscape. He’s been removed from schools, government building, town squares and in some cases even churches as illustrated by their lack of teaching the truth of God and opting for a more progressive entertainment program. They can choose the way they want to honor God so they say. After all, they are a Bible believing church and as long as they are honoring God it’s okay. They are ordained ministers and pastors so they would know, I guess. Right? Evidently not!
As we see in Titus 1:16:
“They personally profess to know God, but in their works they deny Him, being abominable and disobedient, and reprobate unto every good work.”
Titus isn’t the only one to call this to our attention. Matthew cites a discourse between Jesus and a group of scribes and Pharisees in chapter 15:8-9:
“These people have drawn near to me with their mouths, and with their lips they honor me; but their hearts are far from Me. For they worship Me in vain, teaching for doctrine the commandments of men.” (Matt 15:8-9)
God is quite clear in how we are to obey Him.
God has used words to communicate with those He has chosen as shown throughout the Bible. He spoke the earth, the heavens, all plants, beasts and man into being, (Gen 1:1-31). He spoke directly to Adam and Eve, (Gen 2:16-25). He spoke to Noah, (Gen 7) and Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. There are numerous examples of God using words to communicate with those He chose in the Old Testament.
God spoke to or inspired holy men to record Scripture as He inspired them. They recorded God’s word. Peter tells us
“We also possess the confirmed prophetic Word to which you do well to pay attention, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture originated as anyone’s own private interpretation; because prophecy was not brought at any time by human will, but the holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:19-21)
The apostle John tells us in John 1:1-3,
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him.”
Words and how they are used has been important through the ages. John goes on to tell us in verse 14:
“And the Word became flesh, and tabernacled among us (and we ourselves beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten with the Father), full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
So we see the Word was Jesus. Jesus spoke God’s words as John recorded in John 6:63:
“The words that I speak to you, they are spirit and they are life.”
During His time on earth Jesus used words to speak and communicate God’s truth. (John 8:32). Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all bear witness to the many words of Jesus.
The Third Commandment tells us, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” We can use words to demean God not showing Him the honor and respect He deserves. We may claim to be a Christian and honor God but do our words and actions reflect that to others, and to Him?
Words can be true or false. They can hurt or help. They can accuse or set free. The Ninth Commandment shows how words can inflict harm.
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor”
God uses truth in the Bible around 200 times, depending on the translation. When we bear false witness we are not speaking or dealing in truth. Hateful speech, speaking evil of others, gossiping and spreading rumors could also qualify.
Those of us who have been called by God need to be especially mindful of our words and how we choose and use them.
How many of us ever contemplate the power of our words? Do our words express kindness or hate, good or evil, truth or lies? Are we spreading, continuing or participating in gossip? The words we use and speak exposes our truth, good or bad. Remember Matthew 12, above, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”
Brethren, we do not have the luxury others have. We have been called out by God to be leaders in His Kingdom. We are being judged now. When we speak and interact with others our words must reveal what is truly in our heart. In Colossians 3 we are told;
“…you should also put off all these things: wrath, indignation, malice, blasphemy, and foul language from your mouth.” (v.8)
Satan will try to use us to fulfill his agenda, if he can – if we allow it. How do we combat that? We must be able to focus on the truth of God, His mission for us and do what He expects us to do.
Paul, in 2 Corinthians 10:3-6, tells us this is warfare and;
“… although we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the overthrowing of strongholds, Casting down vain imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bring into captivity every thought into the obedience of Christ; And having a readiness to avenge all disobedience, whenever your obedience has been fulfilled.”
For us this calling is the job application for our life as leaders and rulers in God’s coming Kingdom. Are we watching our words and using them to build and edify?
In James 1:26 he gives us a reason why it is very important to control our words:
“If anyone among you considers himself to be religious, and does not control his tongue, but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is vain.”
We are in training and need to be perfecting this now. Returning to Eph 4:29:
“Do not let any corrupt communication come out of your mouth, but that which is good and needful for edification that it may give grace to those who hear.”
Do the words we speak build up our Brothers and Sisters, encourage them and promote their spiritual growth? We do need to be able to gently correct when needed.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:11we are told:
“Therefore, encourage one another, and edify one another, even as you are already doing.”
James tells us our job is not easy. In James 3:1-2 he tells us;
“My brethren, do not many of you become teachers, knowing that we will receive more severe judgement; because we frequently offend, every one of us. If anyone does not offend in what he says, this one is a perfect man and is able also to hold in check the whole body.” (v.1-2)
As His called He is with us all the time. We must act as if we are in His presence in everything we do, because we are.
We need to be positive. Maintain a godly attitude towards the things around us and follow Paul’s lead as he explains in Philippians 4:7-9:
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are honorable, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there be any virtue and if there be any praise, think on these things. Whatever things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, you do also; and the God of peace shall be with you.”
1 Peter 3:8 also sets some guides for us:
“Now the goal is that all of you be of one mind, sympathizing, loving the brethren, compassionate and friendly.”
Let’s go back to James. In chapter 1:19-20 and then back to Matthew 12 where we started:
“…my beloved brethren, let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger because man’s wrath does not work out God’s righteousness.”
And we’ll close with verses 36 and 37 in Matthew 12:
“But I say to you, for every idle word that men may speak, they shall be held accountable in the day of judgement. For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned.”