“Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips. Do not incline my heart to any evil thing, to practice wicked works with men who work iniquity.” Psalm 141:3–4

Your speech is a dead giveaway of your heart. Your manner of speech, your choice in topics, and even the vocabulary you choose to use are all markers of your heart’s condition. Our Lord points this out in Matthew 12:34ff, “Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks, a good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

A news article about a recent study by the University of Kent’s School of Psychology claims that there are clues in a political leader’s speech that are markers as to whether the speaker leans conservative or liberal. The research indicates that conservatives tend to use nouns more often and liberals tend to use adjectives, referring to things by their names instead of describing them by their features (“is an optimist vs. is optimistic”). The working theory is that the use of nouns seems to preserve familiarity, stability and tradition—all things associated with conservative values rather than liberal. Their findings further posit the idea that conservative leaders are more likely to use parts of speech that stress clarity and predictability.

The report ends with expressing a desire to find out what the consequences are of being exposed to more nouns rather than other parts of speech and if noun forms are more persuasive to conservatives rather than liberals. I wish the research also would go as far as to compare a person’s speech patterns who has evolved from being “liberal” to a more conservative stance. Such a transformation absolutely exists in every person who has been genuinely born again. His speech changes because his heart and mind have changed and there are spiritual sensibilities that are violated at a cost.

David’s psalm, quoted from above, is a prayer for safekeeping from evil and evil men. Verse 3 deals with sins of speech and verse 4 concerns sins of heart and action. He was praying to be delivered from behaving with the same characteristics as his enemies. He is basically saying that speech is an indication of one’s relationship with the Lord and he wanted to display the holiness of God in his life. I suspect David did not want his God to be diminished nor dismayed by David’s speech and life and therefore requested God’s safeguarding care, even from himself.

The study cited above shows that thinking changes speech patterns and our Lord’s statement indicates that good speech arises from a good heart while evil speech arises from an evil heart. God is in the business of changing hearts, as Ezekiel 36:26f states, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.”

Speech changes when God changes a man’s heart. What God values, His real children value. Since God made man in His image, then every human bears His image to this very day, including you yourself. It is a symptom of our coarsening culture that it is acceptable even in public and polite circles to use denigrating terms to describe body parts normally hidden under clothing instead of their proper names, if mentioned at all. Vulgar speech is tolerated from our politicians and, even worse, in our pulpits, just so the speaker can “connect” with his audience. What has happened in our society is to be expected. But every believer must ask himself what exactly God meant when He said, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:29ff).

Every believer walks through this life remembering that one day he gives account of his life and of his words. Since our Lord is a witness of all we do, every day of our lives, would it not help to remember He is an observer of every conversation and every word we utter? If you cannot imagine yourself saying what you are about to say in a conversation also on the day of the Bema review before your Lord and Savior, then you should not allow the words to pass your lips and you should pray a prayer of thanks to God for guarding your words!

Authentic believers are known by their actions and they are explained by their words. No wonder there is such an emphasis in Scripture placed upon sound words (Psalm 34:13, 39:1; Proverbs 13:3, 21:23; James 1:26, 3:1ff; 1 Peter 3:10). Our speech would be more God-honoring and dramatically different from the enemies of the Gospel if we remember two simple principles: every man still bears the image of God and God is present at your every conversation. Trust and obey.