One of the most valuable lessons, especially valuable today, when apparently everyone speaks his or her own mind, without thinking much about the weight and sharpness of their words, is the lesson that Jephthah learns (or should have learned). He says in Judges 11:35 – “I have opened my mouth to the LORD, and I cannot take back my vow.” – and this in the context where God did not expect or require a vow from Jephthah.
The lesson here is the lesson of so many verses in the Book of Proverbs that talk about our words, mouth and tongue:
18:21 – Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.
17:27 – Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.
21:23 – Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.
16:24 – Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.
15:4 – A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.
10:19 – When words are many, transgression is not lacking.
Words have a weight, and in a sense, it is a weight that nothing else carries. Besides their weight, our words are part of a larger narrative, that of our own being, of who we are inside. We speak from our inner man. Our words carry the weight of our heart. Jesus, in Luke 6:45 says: “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” There is no way of escaping this truth. What ever else we do to hide who we truly are, in the end our words and actions present our true image, the real portrait of our heart.
What was the abundance of Jephthah’s heart? What is the abundance of my own heart? What is the abundance of your own heart? You can measure it by listening to your words, what you say, how you say it, by seeing the reason for which you say a thing or another. (Do you want a realistic photography of your words? Ask both those closest to you and those with whom you come in contact less often, what your words really “say”, how your words really sound like.) Jephthah, as we have seen last Sunday, when he opened his mouth to the Lord, he was proud and foolish, unwise. If he were less proud and more focused on what God wants, he would have known or remembered Deuteronomy 12:31 – “You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the LORD hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods.” The questions is, then: If we were less proud and more focused on what God wants, how would we speak?
Another way of seeing the abundance of your heart is looking at what you treasure most in life. Jesus said in Matthew 6:21 – “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” That which is the highest, most precious treasure of your heart is what will drive your actions and ultimately your words. If Jesus Christ is your highest, most precious, most treasured treasure, He will have your heart and your words will bear the mark of that treasure. You will be loving in what you say, you will look to build others up through your words and intentions. As Proverbs 15:4 says, your tongue will be a tree of life for others.
The book of Judges ends with a, by now, very famous verse, Judges 21:25 – “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” The lack of a king in Israel drove them to do what was right in their own eyes and mind. Today, let the presence of the King of Kings in your hearts drive your words and intentions. Let Jesus be King over your mouth.