A Tree Is Known by Its Fruit

Let’s examine a couple more pivotal passages in our discussion of communication. First, Proverbs 12:18 says, “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (NIV). And Matthew 12:33–35 reads: “A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad. You brood of snakes! How could evil men like you speak what is good and right? For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.” There is a great truth we can glean from these scriptures:

Speaking your mind is a revelation of your heart.

The condition of the heart is revealed in the words spoken. Good words come forth from a good heart, and bad words issue forth from a bad heart. It is not a question of salvation that that is in view here, but one of sanctification. You might be saved, but that doesn’t mean you’ve been completely transformed into the image of Christ yet. Check the words you say to see just how far along you are in the sanctification process. Dear friends, have you “set apart” your words for a holy work unto God? That’s what the word sanctified means.

There is an undeniable spiritual element to marital communication. Galatians 5:16 says, “Let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.” There’s the choice again: “Let” the Holy Spirit guide you. I don’t know about you, but I suspect that I am in good and numerous company when I say I have sometimes known the right thing to do and not done it and have known the wrong thing to say and said it anyway. If you’re not thinking, “Been there, done that, bought the T- shirt,” then you’re in a group of people so elite I’ve never actually met one!

Seriously, is there any part of our lives that is not to be governed by and surrendered to the Holy Spirit? I dare say the tongue, that “little member” Scripture speaks of, is a big troublemaker. It has been said that though the tongue has no bones, it is hard enough to break a heart. Let the Spirit filter the words you say and caution you against the words you should not say. Let Him crucify your flesh (which is what the tongue is also made of) and teach you how to prevent your unruly member from setting a fire that cannot be easily extinguished.

I think many married couples have a tendency to let it all hang out. Some even pride themselves on speaking their mind in their marriage relationship. Well, that might make them feel better for a moment, but you can be sure the path they leave behind is littered with hurt feelings and damaged relationships. I have often said there are two 29:11’s in the Bible that every Christian needs to know. One is well known and the other sadly obscure. Jeremiah 29:11 is the one we all know, and Proverbs 29:11 is the one we all need to know: “A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back” (NKJV). Did you happen to notice there are only two categories of communication listed here? Foolish and wise. Wise communication, again, is Spirit led and practically filtered by asking ourselves whether our words build up or tear down.

Let me make a point here to make sure you don’t misunderstand. True, you should not vent any and every thought that comes to your mind, but giving your spouse the silent treatment is just as detrimental. There is a “time to be quiet and a time to speak” (Eccles. 3:7), and the wise person learns the difference.

Now, back to Matthew and the truth that our words reveal what is in our hearts. Even when times are tough in your marriage, even when your spouse has wronged you, even when you are in the right, if you use your words to tear down your spouse, it reveals more about you than it does about them. Speaking your mind no matter what, oblivious to the consequences, says something about your heart and is an indication that you have an area in your life that needs to be brought under the spiritual fruit of self-control. If you struggle in this area, do not simply default to “that’s just the way I am.” God is in the people-changing business, and if it is His will that our communication be a form of edification, then you and I can be sure that He will supply the power to change when we fall short in this area, just as He does in all others. I urge you to yield to Him and to allow Him to turn the bitter spring to sweet.

Proverbs 26:18–19 provides another interesting insight into communication. It reads, “Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows and death, so is the man who deceives his neighbor, and says, ‘Was I not joking?’ ” (NASB). We’ve all heard the childhood adage “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” That is just not true. Words carelessly spoken in a marriage have oftentimes not been thought through and their repercussions seriously considered. I personally believe men are more prone to this than are women, but we all need to stop and think before speaking.

The verse in Proverbs warns us not to speak flippantly, claiming, “Oh, I was only joking!” How many husbands and wives do this, sarcastically flinging pointed barbs at their mates only to claim they were joking? Remember, my friend, jokes are supposed to be funny, and if your mate isn’t laughing, there was no joke. More often, in fact, you’re throwing a firebrand or a burning arrow with the potential of destroying your home. Instead, follow the admonition of 2 Corinthians 10:4–5: “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (NIV). If you’ll obey God’s Word, you’ll not only refrain from speaking hurtful, corrupt words, but you will also resist even the thought of them. If you don’t do this, if you speak whatever is in your head, you are playing right into the devil’s hand and possibly speaking thoughts that originate from him. The consequences of that can be disastrous for your marriage.

Excerpt from “Happily… Even After” now available on Amazon.

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BARRY STAGNER

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