Survival Tip #9: Speech

Dr. Jon Morrissette - 8/16/2020
Proverbs  Speech  Wisdom 

How many of you are familiar with that old Windows game, Minesweeper? Between Minesweeper and Solitaire, I easily wasted a year of my young adult life! Were those games not incredibly addictive?

Over the past weeks, I’ve reached out to several of my ministry colleagues. I expressed how I feel like I’m constantly walking on eggshells with people online, with people in my church, in my leadership circles, with students taking my classes at LCU. . . I’m walking on eggshells w/people I’ve never had miscues with ever. I’m not even suggesting I’ve conducted myself flawlessly, because I haven’t! And, neither have those who are being the most judgmental/critical/sensitive/what not.

But what is going on? One of my colleagues said, “Jon, you’re not walking on eggshells, we’re walking through minefields!” Every one of these guys that I reached out to (who are all pastors), like TRON, like Jumangi Next Level, feel they’ve been transported into some surreal wicked game of minesweeper.

In minesweeper, you close your eyes, click a box, and hope you didn’t trigger a landmine. Today, you close your eyes, preach a sermon, and wonder what the fallout is going to be. I go online Wednesday lunch-time, will I survive another day or step on a landmine? You post something of warning on Facebook that has *any* political connotation whatsoever. You ask a clarifying question. You challenge the cultural narrative on any topic. You share a Scripture verse. You try to foster dialogue about something squarely in your wheelhouse as a pastor.

BOOM! It’s a minefield. Last week I deactivated Facebook for the same reason I made it a habit of deleting minesweeper off my computers since college. It’s a total waste of time to keep blowing myself up over and over for nothing. Nobody can win in today’s volatile climate. In minesweeper everyone is a loser.

A friend asked me to chainsaw carve two eagles. I posted the photos on my page. One person criticized my work for having a patriotic theme. An Eagle is a symbol of the “Greatness of America.” I was mixing religion and politics. Another person criticized my work for NOT having a flag. Was I trying to be woke or what?

At the end of Proverbs, I was struck by Proverbs 30:11-14 which says, “There is a generation that curses its father and does not bless its mother. There is a generation that is pure in its own eyes, yet is not washed from its filth. There is a generation—how haughty its eyes and pretentious it looks. There is a generation whose teeth are swords, whose fangs are knives, devouring the oppressed from the land and the needy from among mankind.”

These verses made me realize—people were just as fragile and volatile and self-righteous and vindictive way back “THEN” as they are “NOW.” Peoples teeth are set on edge, chattering. The swords and knives are out. Everyone is pure in their own eyes, yet not truly washed of their filth. Children canceling their parents, parents canceling their children. Generations canceling each other.

When I first started preaching the old ladies would line up at the back door and pat my hand, and thank me, for faithfully preaching the word of God. They’d say, “young man, someday you’re going to be a good preacher.” That day never came, but they were so gracious. Now the old ladies say, “I suppose you were probably a fine preacher in your day.” But seriously, nowadays there are whispers, there is embarrassment, people feel a need to apologize for what’s been taught, and people say, “I disagree!” “I’ve been traumatized that you spoke so boldly thus saith the Lord.” “You’re being mean, intolerant, you’re triggering me. . .” There is a new day, and a new generation indeed.

How do we navigate the minefield of our everyday conversations and interactions? There is an overwhelming amount of counsel given in Proverbs about speech, about words, about the spiritual attitudes behind our words. It’s in everyone’s interest listening to this message, to personally read through the Proverbs and highlight every verse related to the tongue, or words, or speech.

James 3:2 says, “For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is mature, able also to control the whole body.” Most translations say “perfect.” If you are able to control your tongue, you’re perfect, there isn’t any other area of your life you won’t also be able to control. The whole course of our life can be set on fire, in an instant, by a mere slip of the tongue. For me, It’s embarrassing. It’s frustrating. It’s humiliating to mess up. Who saw it? Who did I harm? Who was affected? How do I repair the damage? Can I repair the damage?

The only thing I can say for myself is that I keep inviting the Holy Spirit to sanctify me, and help me become completely mature, like Christ Jesus. Christ Jesus triggered a lot of folks. They crucified him. Somebody reminded me of Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:32-38:

“Therefore, everyone who will acknowledge me before others, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever denies me before others, I will also deny him before my Father in heaven. Don’t assume that I came to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. The one who loves a father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; the one who loves a son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever doesn’t take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Anyone who finds his life will lose it, and anyone who loses his life because of me will find it.”

Why am I sharing this with you? If your intention/desire is to faithfully represent Christ even in your family, much less the world, the deck is already stacked against you. You are beginning 100 points down before you even gear up or set foot on the field. You’re operating out of a deficit! Just because there is turbulence doesn’t mean you haven’t represented Christ well—there may be division and volatility precisely because you HAVE done well!

In a minesweeper world, 1 Peter 4:11 continues to be my daily prayer. “If anyone speaks, let it be as one who speaks God’s words; if anyone serves, let it be from the strength God provides, so that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ in everything. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.”

The Proverbs are an incredible resource, a kind of training manual, of how we speak well, and honor God. I can’t help if a person insults, or persecutes me, or cancels me, because of Christ. But I can endeavor to not become a distraction, or a spectacle, detracting attention away from God’s glory!

I’m going to let you stand over my shoulder for a moment, and kind of overhear, what God’s Holy Spirit is saying to this slowly maturing preacher!

Proverbs 4:23-24, “Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life. Don’t let your mouth speak dishonestly, and don’t let your lips talk deviously.” Holy Spirit purify my heart, that whatever I say, be edifying and life-giving. Purify my mouth that whatever I say (or post), be fully honest and truthful and true. “Truthish” isn’t enough! Truthy isn’t the standard. Truth is the standard!

Proverbs 9:7-9, “The one who corrects a mocker will bring abuse on himself; the one who rebukes the wicked will get hurt. Don’t rebuke a mocker, or he will hate you; rebuke the wise, and he will love you.” Proverbs 23:9, “Don’t speak to a fool, for he will despite the insight of your words.” Spirit of the Living God, Lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from the snare of the mocker, whose memes provoke, and agitate, and enrage my flesh. Teach me not to throw your pearls before mockers and fools, only to be hated more! Help me invest more deeply on the few who are truly teachable, receptive, sincere, open! It’s not my job to set every mocker straight!

Proverbs 10:11a, “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life. . .” Proverbs 10:32a, “The lips of the righteous know what is appropriate. . .” Proverbs 15:2a, “The tongue of the wise makes knowledge attractive. . .” Proverbs 15:4a, “The tongue that heals is a tree of life. . .” Proverbs 16:21b, “. . . pleasant words increase learning.” Proverbs 17:27, “The one who has knowledge restrains his words, and the one who keeps a cool head is a person of understanding.” Proverbs 18:20-21, “From the fruit of a person’s mouth his stomach is satisfied; he is filled with the product of his lips. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who live it will eat its fruit.” Holy Spirit, never let me forget the utter power of my lips to bring death and life. May my tongue be a life-giving fountain… speaking only what’s appropriate… making wisdom/knowledge attractive… speaking winsomely, with restraint… may a cool head always prevail… and especially when I’m feeling triggered!

Proverbs 18:13, “The one who gives an answer before he listens—this is a foolishness and disgrace for him.” O boy. This is a tough one! Holy Spirit, may I be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger. Remind that human anger does not accomplish your righteousness. Rid me of all moral/political/divisive filth and the evil that is so prevalent. Help me humbly receive the word you’ve implanted in me, which is able to save souls starting with me own.

Proverbs 21:23-24, “The one who guards his mouth and tongue keeps himself out of trouble. The arrogant and proud person, named ‘Mocker,’ acts with excessive arrogance.” Lord please help me not be THAT GUY!

Proverbs 28:23, “The one who rebukes a person will later find more favor than the one who flatters with his tongue.” Lord, embolden me to keep taking risks, speaking the truth in love. Deliver me from the temptation of hollow flattery, of wanting to always be liked and loved… keep me from avoiding tension, from speaking truthfully to fragile/volatile people, from having difficult talks.

Proverbs 29:20, “Do you see someone who speaks too soon? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” Yeah, that too Lord! Proverbs 17:28, “Even a fool is considered wise when he keeps silent--discerning, when he seals his lips.” Lord, help me look like the wisest, discerning guy in the room!

Proverbs 18:19, “An offended brother is harder to reach than a fortified city, and quarrels are like the bars of a fortress.” Lord, help me to tear down walls one word after another. Forgive me, and build bridges to those I’ve recklessly offended.

**Only thing I can personally offer you this morning is this. Don’t do anything more or anything less than this: Follow my example as I follow Christ.” Let’s keep growing toward maturity, perfection together!

Scripture Verses

1 Peter 4:11; Matthew 10:32-38; Proverbs 4:23-24; 9:7-9; 10:11a; 10:32a; 18:19-21; 21:23-24; 30:11-14

Worship Playlist

This We Know by Passion

All Creatures of Our God and King by Sovereign Grace

Lead Me to the Cross by Shane & Shane

Way Maker by Passion

Study Questions

  1. Read James 3:3-12. Why is the tongue so dangerous?
  2. Who have you damaged most with your tongue? Who most needs to hear blessings from your tongue?
  3. How can you begin working with the Holy Spirit to bridle your tongue?

Apply It!


Our In the Wilderness sermon series booklet provides a place for sermon notes, questions for reflection, and a challenge to read through the book of Proverbs in 31 days. You may pick up a booklet at Lakeside on Sunday mornings or weekdays between 8:00 am & 4:00 pm.