Idle Words Leak Life
Practical Issues of This Life, CFP, Watchman Nee
He that guardeth his mouth keepeth his life; but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction. (Prov. 13.3)
gentle tongue is a tree of life; but perverseness therein is a breaking of the spirit. (Prov. 15.4)
of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. . . . And I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned. (Matt. 12.34,36,37)
If a waterpot has a hole, all the water in it will leak out. This is not a matter of whether there is water, rather is it a question of whether there is a leak. Some brothers and sisters seem to really seek the Lord in knowing the cross. Sometimes they are quite willing to bear the cross. By all indications they should be full of life. Yet, strangely, in such people as these, who seek and admire and even bear the cross, you cannot touch life. On the contrary, you meet death. What is the cause for such a strange situation? The answer is: the life which they have received has all drained away.
“He that guardeth his mouth keepeth his life; but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction” (Prov. 13.3). We dare not rule dogmatically either way that when Solomon wrote this proverb he was referring to physical life or to spiritual life. But we may take its principle and apply it to the spiritual realm. This word shows us one thing, which is, that a person who seeks the Lord and who desires to supply the church with the life he receives must be careful in word. If he is not careful in word his life will leak away. Why is it that some people are not of much use in God’s hand? It is because there has been a leakage of life. You can only touch death and not life in them because life has been drained away through their words. Because of this, we need to guard our mouth—and guard it vigilantly—before the Lord. Many stories can be told how an idle word drains away life more than does anything else. This does not imply that sin is better than an idle word. But we can say that aside from sin what dissipates life most is our idle word.
“Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment” (Matt. 12.36). Does the Lord here speak of an unclean word? No. Does He here speak of a slanderous word? Not at all. Of an evil word? Again, the answer is no. What is spoken of here is an idle word. Idle words are superfluous words, irrelevant words, unnecessary words, or words of rumor which cause dispute. “They shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned” (v.36b,37). This is what the Lord Jesus has said. May we see the seriousness of idle words as well as slanderous words. Not only the speaking of unclean words is grave, the speaking of idle words is also of solemn significance. In the case of certain things and particular sins we are able to make some kind of restitution; but there are other things and other sins which cannot be recompensed at all. How can you make amends for idle words spoken against people? You may go to the person and confess your sin, you may say to that person that you take back your words; but their sound has already entered people’s ears and no way is available to eliminate it. You may reimburse someone for things stolen, but by what means can you repay the damage done through idle words? Such a sin will be presented before God. Hence the Lord says: “Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.”
“A gentle tongue is a tree of life; but perverseness therein is a breaking of the spirit” (Prov. 15.4). “Gentle” is a not being overheated; it is being moderate and proper in tone. With much speaking, the tongue becomes heated; and when the tongue gets overheated, there is no more tree of life. Only a gentle tongue is a tree of life. A gentle tongue is one that is neither hasty nor foolish nor babbling. Such a tongue is like a tree of life. You cannot smell the fragrance of Christ in a Christian who loves to chatter with idle words. He who delights in speaking idly is unable to supply others with life. For an idle word is but the creation of a big opening through which your life is leaked away.
Knowing that an idle word is a dissipation of life, what should we do about it? In order to guard our mouth we need first to deal with our heart. “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh,” says the Lord. The mouth utters whatever is in the heart. If you have something in your heart, your mouth sooner or later will express it. If you do not say it here, you will say it there: if not in this house, then it will be in another house. What the heart is filled with, that the mouth will spill out. Consequently, learning not to say idle words before God must begin with the dealing of the heart. If your heart is not dealt with, neither will your mouth ever be dealt with. For out of all the various things that fill the heart the mouth speaks them forth. Never excuse yourself by saying that you are a person who speaks without your heart being in it. Judging by the word of the Lord Jesus, there simply is no such possibility. With the mouth comes the heart. The mouth merely expresses what is in the heart. Hence the heart must be dealt with before the mouth can truly be dealt with.
Due to problems among the brethren at Corinth, Paul exhorted them by saying, “Speak the same thing” (1 Cor. 1.10a). How could they ever come around to speaking the same thing? By being “perfected together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (v.10b). The life of the church is similar to the life of an individual. As the life of an individual may be drained away through speaking idle words, so the life of the church also can be drained away through idle words. Since we have the same life, let us be of one mind and of one judgment. If so, we will be able to speak the same thing and be kept from speaking idle words. Let us therefore deal with the heart so that the mouth may also be dealt with.
“Doth the fountain send forth from the same opening sweet water and bitter?” (James 3.11) If a fountain cannot spill out two different kinds of water, how can a mouth spill out two different kinds of speech? As a fountain only sends forth one kind of water, so the mouth should only speak one kind of language. We need to deal specifically with idle words; for if this drainage is not stopped, what should not flow in will constantly come in through the one end and what should not flow out will continuously do so through the other end. And such a loss would be incalculable. Hence this leakage must be stopped. Let us ask the Lord: “Lord, deal with my mouth that it may be guarded through Your grace.”
Furthermore, you must not only deal with your own mouth, you need also to deal with the other person’s mouth. You should help those who are lovers of idle talk, those who love to babble and spread rumors. When such people come to you with the intention of saying many idle words, do not let them start. You may tell them: “Brother, let us pray.” You will lead them in the right path by not letting them speak idly but leading them to either pray or recite Bible verses. You may even be so blunt as to suggest: “Brother, let us learn to say things that edify. It is better not to speak idle words.”
Yet, to have the leak completely stopped we must first ask God to deliver us from our own curiosity so that we may learn to fear Him. Many Christians are so full of curiosity that they are eager to hear strange and even unclean stories. Their ears are like a garbage can into which all kinds of things can be dumped. If we are delivered from this curiosity, we will sin less, and likewise help our brothers and sisters to commit less sins. If our ears are not itching and if we give no opportunity to people to speak idle words, we will be able to keep our own mouth right before God so that it will not drain away life and will help to stop the leakage in others as well.
May we ask God to save us from idle words which dissipate life. Besides sin, an idle word too is a leak of life. Yet if we are kept in word in the right way, our life will not suffer loss. There will be no escape of life.