Check the Radar Screen
“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver” (Proverbs 25:11).
I am not a good patient and tend to think that most medical rules apply to everyone else in my life – but not to me. After all, I am a woman and I am a Southerland. According to my husband, it doesn’t get much tougher than that. Several years ago, I was slammed with a high fever and blinding headache that sent me to bed for days, something highly unusual for me. I called my doctor. When he heard my symptoms, he told me to come in immediately and even though his waiting room was full, he would make room for me in his already crowded schedule. His urgency was not encouraging.
The minute I walked in his office, the receptionist waved me back to the patient area where a nurse promptly escorted me to an examination room, hurriedly recorded my symptoms, took my temperature, glanced briefly at my throat and quickly left the room. Minutes later, the doctor and a nurse walked in and stood on the opposite side of the room, almost smiling at me. At this point, I realized that whatever I had was evidently highly contagious and probably fatal. I felt so awful that the latter was definitely appealing.
“Mary, I am almost certain you have viral meningitis,” the doctor said. Seeing the blank look on my face, he explained, “Your abnormally high fever of 104 and severe headache are classic symptoms of meningitis, but we need to run some tests to verify my suspicions. Oh, and by the way, how long have you had the solid white coating on your tongue?” I was stunned. What coating? Why is the color of my tongue even important in determining my illness? The doctor continued, “The health of the tongue is a very strong indicator of the health of the entire body.”
The same is true when it comes to the words we speak. “The mouth speaks the things that are in the heart. Good people have good things in their hearts, and so they say good things. But evil people have evil in their hearts, so they say evil things” (Matthew 12:34-35, NCV). If my words are boastful, my heart is insecure. If my words are filthy, my heart is impure and if my words are critical, my heart is filled with pride and anger. In other words, the problem is not really my mouth, it’s my heart. The words I speak reflect the true condition of my heart.
Careless words can cause such grief. Unless strained through discipline and holiness, words can convey false perspectives and untruths. However, the right word, spoken at the right time and in the right way can bring order in the midst of confusion and light on a very dark path. I believe God gives us spiritual “radar” so we can assess a situation and speak the right word for that circumstance. We just need to check the “radar screen” before we speak.