Oh, My Word, Part 1: A Tattletale on the Heart

I’ve often said to my friends at church, “The reason I preach long sermons is that I get paid by the word.” After the chuckling dies down, I’m usually haunted for a few moments by Solomon’s proverb, “When words are many, sin is not absent” (Prov 10:19a). As Eugene Peterson has famously said, “We cannot be too careful about the words we use; we start out using them and they end up using us.”[1] His call is for believers to cultivate the practice of integrity and winsomeness in our daily speech. 

That call is echoed by Marilyn McEntyre, who writes, “Like any other life-sustaining resource, language can be depleted, polluted, contaminated, eroded, and filled with artificial stimulants.”[2] Her mission is to motivate people “to be good stewards of language,” retrieving words from “the kinds of misuse, abuse, and distortion to which they’ve been subjected of late, and to reinvigorate them for use as bearers of truth and instruments of love.”[3] In today’s polarized environment, that sounds like a good and necessary vision.

In the next few posts, I’ll try to tease out a mini-theology of words. I may even disclose some of those areas where I believe my own verbalizations still need improvement. By the grace of God, gone are the days when I was an immature high school swimmer “cussin’ with the best of ’em” on the pool deck and in the locker room. But, oh, there’s still a long way for me to go when it comes to my mouth! Even so, words start much deeper down, said Jesus, long before they ever vibrate across our vocal chords and flow past our lips (cf. Matt 12:34b). That’s why Warren Wiersbe used to say, “The tongue is a tattletale on the heart.”

So, it’s really our hearts that need extra doses of grace, not just our tongues. Can you relate?


[1] Eugene H. Peterson, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A Conversation in Spiritual Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 54.

[2] Marilyn McEntyre, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009), 1.

[3] Ibid.

Image Credits: Pexels.com.

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