Soul Food

Soul Food

We’re starting with Proverbs 10 this morning as we consider our speech as food for the soul. I’ve referred to at times as a nuts and bolts sermon. It is a refresher of the things we already know. We go to the Word of the Lord, you join me in prayer. Living God, we do ask that you would help us to hear your Holy Word, that we may truly understand and, Lord, that in understanding we would believe, and in believing we may follow in all faithfulness and obedience, that we would seek your honor and your glory in all that we do. And this we would pray and ask through Christ our Lord. Amen. Beginning in verse 11, The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence. Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses. On the lips of him who has understanding, wisdom is found, but a rod is for the back of him who lacks sense. The wise lay up knowledge, but the mouth of fool brings ruin near. When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. The tongue of the righteous is choice silver.

The heart of the wicked is of little worth. The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fool’s die for lack of sense. The mouth of the righteous bring forth wisdom, but the perverse tongue will be cut off. The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable, but the mouth of the wicked, what is perverse. The word of the Lord. Please be seated. I’m sure many of you are well acquainted with Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood. It ran for 33 years, a child’s program that focused on the emotional and the physical concerns of children. Each half hour show was carefully thought through and well crafted. Fred Rogers would speak about grown up issues to children in a way that they could hear and understand. In 2019, a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, starring Tom Hanks, was released. And something happened repeatedly when that trailer was shown. Many adults were brought to tears. And it was more than just childhood nostalgia. Mr. Rogers is well known for his thoughtfulness and his kindness, said many things, lots of quotes. One of those, he said, I think there are many people who bring a whole lot of baggage from their past and a whole lot of anxiety about the future to their present moment.

What’s so great is that people can be in relationship for the now. And so he would speak to these types of issues unflinchedly, knowing that not only adults, but children deal with past hurts, future anxieties. And He spoke to children from the heart. When He would say things like, I like you just the way that you are. He meant it. And for many, this was the first time that an adult in their life had ever said something like that to them. That’s an amazing statement. The first time for many, they heard those types of words. One person reminisced, I remember one thing that always blew my mind was that he never yelled. Men in my life were always yelling. And so to me, Mr. Rogers seemed like magic. For 30 minutes, he fed the souls of children with kind and gracious words. Proverbs tells us life and death and the power of the tongue. And we are made in the image and the likeness of a God who communicates. Our speech is a powerful tool. It’s intrinsic to being human. Our communication is where the divine and the human kiss, as it were. Unfortunately, because of our sinfulness, it can more often be that lipstick on a pig kiss.

But you and I are made in the image of our life giving God, and our speech then must reflect His image and bring life to those around us. Proverbs is filled with instructions on our speech and on our character. You might recall this quote from Old Testament scholar, Jack Collins. He says, Every time you make a choice, you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different than it was before. In other words, not only does character cause conduct, but conduct shapes our character. Now, that’s true of the choices we make. It is also true of the words that we speak. Our speech both shapes our character and it demonstrates the character that we have. From the Book of Sirach or Ecclesiasticus, we get this pithy saying, The heart of fool’s is in their mouth, but the mouth of the wise is in their heart. Catch the difference? The mouth of the wise is in their heart. Proverbs 10, 20 reminds us, The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, the heart of the wicked is of little worth. So then before us is the idea of how do we increase our speech portfolio?

How do we increase the value of our character? What we do through words that nourish. Verse 11, The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence. That idea of conceal here means it’s something hidden. There’s evil intent that’s hidden, deceptive. Then it goes on to say that hatred then stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses. So how is our mouth to be a fountain of life? By giving life, giving words. We speak forth words of life. And to be sure, speaking this way includes both words of encouragement and at times correction and rebuke. So both of those are true. Now, to say the obvious, there’s not a person here who does not regret the words they have spoken. There’s not a person here who does not regret the words that somebody else has spoken to you. Just think for a minute. Can you recall something hurtful that someone has said to you? Of course you can. We all can. Grade school, high school, maybe this morning, we can remember some of these things decades later. Decades, we can remember very precise, hurtful things that were said to us.

You’re fat, you’re skinny, you’re dumb, you’re a waste of space, and worse things, on it goes. And you and I have said those very kinds of things to someone else. So public service announcement, this is not a sermon about how everyone else around you has failed you in their speech to you. It’s about how you speak to others, how you and I talk. It will not do us any good to listen for the person that we want sitting next to us to hear, to be able to hear what the Lord is speaking to us about our speech, our conduct. When you develop a habit of speaking in a godly way, you help create a character that generates this speech. Again, speaking causes character, character causes speech. Well, what then are some of the characteristics of nourishing speech? There are many, and we’re just going to look at a few this morning. Well, one is that we see speech is restrained, it’s limited. Proverbs 19, When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. If we’re honest, most of us say far more than we should. We speak too much, we listen too little.

This is not an introvert extrovert thing either. It’s not about differences in personality, but about not speaking impulsively. It’s also about filtering our speech. Nothing wrong if you’re a verbal processor processing out loud, as long as your processor is submitted to the Lord. Sometimes in the name of authenticity, we can say and do horrible things. Our authentic self needs to be shaped and refined by the Gospel. Godly speech shows self control. Godly speech shows restraint. And what makes that even harder is that we are made to speak almost instantaneously. When we don’t just think of thought and speak. It’s just like, it’s there. So what that means is our heart is so crucial in the matter for we speak what’s in us. And what’s in us needs changed by the power of Christ. So that we indeed are speaking words that are nourishing. And nourishing words are not only restrained, but they are also apt, they’re fitted. Apt simply means the right words for the right occasion at the right time. Proverbs 10 13, On the lips of him who has understanding, wisdom is found. We see in Proverbs 15, To make an apt answer is a joy to a man.

A word in season, how good it is. The opposite of that, Proverbs 18 6, A fool lips walks into a fight. His mouth invites a beating, not knowing when to speak, not saying the right words at the right time. For that ready, fire, aim, the order matters. And that fittedness can be as it were. You think of like a pinch of salt on food. It seasons it, it brings out the flavor. It’s delightful. A pinch of salt in the soy sauce is not very helpful. Makes it more salty and worse. That fittedness of knowing when to say those things that can bring that right words for the right occasion at the right time. And many times saying nothing is the best response. Especially when someone is grieving, it’s probably a good time to say very little to them. Your presence will have far more power than your words. One of the things we think about, why do we have such a hard time with fittedness? Part is because we can feel awkward around someone in a very difficult situation. And in order to break that tension, that awkwardness we feel, we just start talking, we need to learn the value of silence.

Silence can highlight and accentuate what is spoken. One writer puts it like this. He said, Somewhere we know that without silence, words lose their meaning. That without listening, speaking no longer heals. That without distance, closeness cannot cure. See, words and silence are fitted together. Silence is the canvas for words to be spoken on. Also, when we think then of words that are well timed, we realize that not everything has to be said all at once. A friend gets fired for continuing to being late at work and he’s hurting. He likely knows it was his own fault, pointing out the obvious at that moment, probably not that helpful. We have the English way of saying that proverb, kicking a person when they’re down. It’s not the right time to also point out the other five top character flaws he possess. Well, besides being not being punctual, you’re also lazy, inconsiderate, irresponsible, and selfish. What is that need to be able to just unload on somebody all of that at one time, especially in a difficult moment. There may be a time you need to say that, but it’s knowing the fittedness of that, the timing of that.

Verse 31, The mouth of the righteous bring forth wisdom, but the perverse tongue will be cut off. The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable. Why speech is acceptable, appropriate for the circumstance. It’s practiced in wisdom. So knowing the right time to speak takes a great deal of wisdom. If you tend to have an overwhelming need to correct all errors all at once, you likely struggle with giving a good word in season. Because if that’s the struggle, it’s always in season. A general rule for you is if you fall on the side of speaking too quickly, waiting will always be your friend. That is the side you fall on. If you fall on the side of not speaking up when you should, that nervous prompting may be your very cue to say something. Paul tells us in Ephesians 4, he tells us, Let no corrupt talk come out of our mouths, but only as such is good for edification, for building up as fits the occasion that it may give grace to those who hear. The fitting word gives grace to those who hear when it fits the occasion. And lastly, nourishing words are kind.

They bring healing. Verse 20 of Chapter 10, the tongue of the righteous is choice silver. It has value because it expresses wisdom. The next verse, Verse 21, the lips of the righteous nourish many. That word nourish is literally to shepherd in other contexts, like a shepherd who brings his or her flock to green pastures, to still waters to feed them. So you and I bring forth words that build up, that edify, that nourish the soul. Proverbs 16, 24, gracious words are like a honeycomb, weakness to the soul and health to the body. Proverbs 12, 18, there are is one whose rash words are like sword thrust, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Proverbs 15, 1, a soft dancer turns away wrath. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge. Why were adults weeping in reflection of Mr. Rogers? Because for some, it was the first time that someone in their life spoke nourishing words to them. And he did so to a mass audience of people all over the place. Millions of people heard those things for the first time. And when we think about that for God’s people, when we look to Proverbs, we recognize that Proverbs is for the people of God in community with him.

It’s a redemptive community. How much more are those words of life to be done here? Those who’ve been called by God to his son, that we have that opportunity to bring forth that type of benefit to them. We consider Proverbs, they’re not fortune cookies. Those sayings, they’re God’s words given to his people. The Godly speech that forms our character, it’s hard. It’s always been hard because of our sinful hearts. Why do we struggle so much with how we talk? Jesus tells us, Matthew 12 31, The mouth speaks what the heart is full of. Or out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. So what are we to do when our speech and our beliefs are not in harmony? Well, we go to the word that brings life. William Capote, a petitioner of Bowden as well, he said, One way to handle the discrepancy between our beliefs and our sinful inclinations is to repent, to pray for grace and forgiveness, and struggle on in the belief that God will forge a greater harmonious in our battle of sin. That is the Christian approach. We bring our hearts, we bring our mouths to Jesus. And where we have failed, we confess that as sin.

Our ability to communicate, to speak is powerful and it’s amazing. Unlike anything else in creation, we were made to talk. We were made to commune with God and with one another. It should not be a surprise then that this awe inspiring gift is also so tainted with our fallenness. From our hearts we speak and we need new hearts. This is where we have good news. Jesus gives us new hearts. John 1, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The Incarnate Word is great and glorious. His Word, it comes to us as life itself. The redemptive beauty of His words, it changes and it transforms us. Yes, Jesus did at times confront the self righteous, and He spoke very strong words to them because those are the words they needed. But we also see other words of Jesus. John 8, the woman caught in adultery, thrown on the ground at Jesus’ feet. No doubt, she was trembling and ashamed. Her accusers were wanting to put her to death, to bring accusation against Jesus in the process.

As he’s speaking with them and confronting them, and finally they start to leave, we hear Jesus speak to her words of life. He said, Women, where are they? Has no one condemned you? No one, Lord. Neither do I condemn you. From now on, sin no more. That’s words of life. Just before he denies the Lord three times, Peter hears Jesus say, I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have returned, strengthen your brothers. And then we hear Jesus call out to his father on the cross. And his words were, Father, forgive them. Father, forgive them. Redempt them. Emptive beauty in those words. And this is what you and I have been called to. It is this that his grace has empowered in us. It is this adornment of His righteousness that Proverbs speaks to because it’s the adornment of Jesus. Now, if all you hear me tell you is be nice, I will take that as a win. In our current climate, that would be a step up. But I’m saying much more than be nice. It’s God has given to us the good news of his son to bring forth into the lives of others.

Yesterday at Joyce’s memorial service, this place is packed. Many of you are here because Joyce was a person that just heard repeatedly from others. I know that in my own life as well. She just encouraged people. She spoke good words to them. She came alongside, she developed people. She was just amazing. You all know that, who know her. What a testimony of her life. You think of someone like Mr. Rogers, who spoke to millions of people with his venue. Great thing. Joyce spoke to far less, but no less impactful to us. Because that’s the gospel at work. We think how often in our fantasy world, the movies and films, we love a magic wand with this thing, abracadabra, this and that, and stuff would happen. We all want that. There’s just a part of our heart that would think, wouldn’t that be great if we have been given an amazing magic wand in the words that we use? Because the things that you say have almost an immediate impact in somebody’s life. You say something encouraging and kind to somebody, wow, it’s like Africa smile, Africa lift up their heart. And that happens to us in the same way.

That’s a gift God gives to us. He who communicates, who has made us to communicate, has called us to communicate those words of life. Yes, to our spouses, to our children, to our brothers, to our sisters, to our parents, to our friends, certainly that and beyond. Sometimes it’s the ones closest to us. Not sometimes, always the ones closest to us, the ones we have the hardest time speaking to. Well, some of our greatest wounds come from those who are closest. And here we are as the people of God, redeemed by Him, set free from our own sins, given the privilege of that life giving transformation to those around us. This, as always, is a restart. We think about the things we said, even maybe on the way here, and it’s like, okay, I can have a restart. I can bring a change in the things I’ve said because Jesus has spoke a kind word to me. Your sins are forgiven. He has set us free that we would then be able to bring that life, that help and wholeness to those around us. That is a high calling. That is a great privilege to bear the name of Jesus, the Word made flesh.

Pray with me. Father, indeed, we are so grateful that you have called us from darkness into light. Father, that you have not held our sins against us. You have not held our words against us, but that you have forgiven us through your son. Father, we pray and ask that the ongoing work of your Holy Spirit in us would continue to transform us. Father, that we all long that at the end of our days there would be people who look back and to see how you bless them through us. We pray for that. We pray that the name of Jesus would be glorified on the lips of others because of the words of your people. And this we would ask in his mighty name, Amen.

Disclaimer: Automated Sermon Transcription