Jesus tells us that man speaks out of the abundance of his heart. In other words, it's the wellspring of our heart that determines what flows from our mouths.
Is it sweet and fresh, refreshing and helpful? Or is it polluted and acidic, causing illness and damage? If I keep my heart with all diligence, then what comes out of my mouth will be the wisdom from above, rather than that which is earthly, naturally (unspiritual), and demonic (James 3:13-15).
The key lies in our hearts. And if you are a child of God under the New Covenant, you have a new heart, not a heart of stone. Your responsibility is to keep it clean through confessing your sins and keeping short accounts with God, even as David did in Psalm 51:1-10.
Whatever camps in your heart, my friend, is going to be on your tongue.
Bitter heart, bitter words.
Joyful heart, joyful words.
Loving heart, loving words.
In Ephesians 5:4, Paul tells us that there must be "no (none, zero) filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting." This means that when we talk to our mates, there is to be purity in our speech. Our words are to be gentle, reasonable-ready to yield-not always insisting on our own way, our own viewpoint. Reasonable speech is full of kindness and mercy.
Paul writes in Ephesians 4:29, "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear." The word translated "unwholesome" in this passage actually means "rotting" or "decaying."
I'll never forget when I was fourteen, and it was my turn to get the garbage can to the curb for the morning pickup. It had been hot weather and the stench was overpowering. But what was worse was what happened when I set the big can down and jarred the lid. It fell off, exposing a white sea of maggots. It was utterly gross. It still makes my skin crawl to think of it. Scripture says that unwholesome words are just like that. Loathsome and repulsive. Disgusting and repugnant. Such things do not belong in the heart or on the tongue of a child of God!
Our goal should be to build up others, especially our life partners.
Paul tells us that our speech should be "according to the need of the moment." Before you and I speak, we need to take time to think about what is most appropriate. In other words, what does my husband need to hear at this particular time? What words would particularly benefit my wife at this moment?
And how should we speak such words? With grace. Our words are to "give grace to those who hear." Grace is unearned, unmerited favor or blessing. It is receiving something good and pleasant even when in reality we haven't warranted it.
In James 4:1, the apostle tells us what causes dissension in relationships. "What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you?" he asks. "Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?" The word translated "pleasures" is the Greek word hedone, which means "inner desires." We quarrel and fight, James says, because of the uncontrolled desires raging within us.
Have you ever been hurt because your husband or wife didn't meet your expectations? Did you want something-only to be refused? You wanted to be loved, understood, comforted, encouraged, or held, but your spouse seemed either unwilling or unable to meet your need. You sent out all the right signals, but they weren't received. Did it leave you feeling a little nettled, maybe a little angry?
I understand. I've been there, too. And I've had to consult with myself so I wouldn't lash back in anger. It was as though a war was going on within me. I've struggled and fretted, cried and fumed because I didn't get what I wanted. And then what happens? James 4:2 spells out the awful truth: "You lust and do not have; so you commit murder."
Oh, I don't mean we march to the gun cabinet, load up the shotgun, aim, and fire. I mean we let loose with both barrels filled with hateful, spiteful, angry words. We murder our mates with the buckshot of iron verbs.
From what dark corner of our nature do these savage blasts come? What lies behind such warlike words? It's a mind out from under the control of the Spirit. It's the lust of our flesh that we read about in Galatians 5:19-26.
Beloved, there are four essential factors of marriage that must be in place before good communication can happen. If you work at these four essentials, they will provide a solid basis for positive communication that leads to a strong, healthy marriage.
Uphold the priority of your marriage. That's the message of Genesis 2:24: "For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife." Our marriage partner is to come before any other human being. Everyone else falls into the background-including our parents.
Is your mate number one in your life? Or do you allow parents, in-laws, relatives, friends, business associates, or even children to take the place intended for your spouse?
If you want to keep your marriage strong (and free from regrets!), the relationship between husband and wife must take priority, second only to a relationship with Christ.
Uphold the permanence of your marriage. The word "join" in Genesis 2:24 means to glue together so that two become one. In other words, marriage is to be permanent, lasting, not to be undone in this life. Jesus Himself commented on this Old Testament teaching in Matthew 19:6 when He said, "What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate." God declares that couples must remain firmly committed to each other until the moment death parts them.
Uphold the oneness of your marriage. Genesis 2:24 also says of the married couple, "And they shall become one flesh." This oneness is not merely physical. Because my body is the house of my soul, marriage is also an emotional or soul oneness. And because my body is the home of my spirit, marriage is also a spirit oneness. This profound union-physical, emotional, spiritual-is an essential factor in marriage. In God's eyes, you and your spouse are one in every way.
How many of our difficulties in communication would vanish if we stopped to ponder this oneness-of-flesh before we opened our mouths?
Uphold the openness of your marriage. Before the Fall, Adam and Eve enjoyed complete openness, for they "were both naked and were not ashamed" (Genesis 2:25). They hid nothing from each other. They shared the fullness of their hearts without a thought of concealing the least feeling or desire. We would say they were totally transparent with one another.
But the moment they fell into sin, everything changed. Openness was a thing of the past. Immediately they concealed themselves with fig leaves. They put on a protective layering to cover their nakedness, and the total openness they had always enjoyed instantly vanished.
In Christ, we can recover some of the openness that Adam and Eve lost in the Garden. Transparency between marriages partners is not easy to develop, but it is well worth every effort.
The truth is, each of these four essentials takes a lot of work to uphold.
When you uphold the priority, permanence, oneness, and openness of your marriage, you lay a foundation for godly communication that cannot help but solidify and energize your marriage relationship. You'll find yourself speaking words that build up rather than tear down.
Host, Precepts For Life
Co-CEO, Precept Ministries International