Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Crafting Words

Crafting Words

The lips of the righteous know what is fitting, but the mouth of the wicked only what is perverse. Proverbs 10:32

The righteous know what is fitting because they know three important things: the heart of God, the heart of others, and their own hearts.

"The lips of the righteous know what is fitting" refers to speech. Fitting speech refers to words that are spoken at the right time to the right people in the right circumstances. Someone who handles words this appropriately are artists and craftsmen.

My girls were excited when I arrived at home with a bunk bed kit for their room. But excitement turned to disappointment when several re-cut pieces didn’t fit and pre-drilled holes for the screws didn’t line up. Someone in the factory was careless with their measurements, cutting and drilling.

It is too easy for our speech to be as haphazard and ill-fitting as the pieces of the bunk bed. For the wicked, speech is perverse, meaning it violates moral and societal standards. Perverse means to "turn upside down." It is immoral, offensive, and inappropriate. Children exposed to this kind of speech grow up without any internal apparatus for tuning in to spiritual thoughts or behavior.

But inappropriate speech doesn’t just emanate from those with impure and wicked hearts, nor is it limited to that which is immoral or offensive. Inappropriate speech is that which fails to take into account people’s feelings and situations.

One year after losing their oldest son, friends of ours were asked by a lady at church, "Are you still grieving for him? It’s been a year." She has no idea how she cut the heart of our friends. It wasn’t wickedness that prompted her cruel comment; it was simply an unsympathetic and undiscerning heart. Because she didn’t know the heart of God, the heart of her friends, or even her own heart, she spoke words that tore the spirit.

The heart of God is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, loving and faithful (Exodus 34:6). To know his heart is to walk in his kindness, showing compassion to the hurt and suffering. Someone attuned to the heart of God would never so callously dismiss the constant ache felt by grieving parents. God knows the pain of losing a son.

Secondly, to know the heart of another person is to place ourselves in the drama of their lives and feel, as best we can imagine, the joys and hurts they experience. Though our children may be alive and healthy, can we imagine what it would be like to visit our own child in the cancer ward? Can we stretch to think what it must be like to make the funeral arrangements for our son or daughter? Such thoughts are not pleasant, but neither are they morbid if the focus of such thoughts is to enter into another’s suffering and experience life with them.

Finally, to be able to speak words that are fitting, we must know our own hearts. "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?"(Jeremiah 17:9). We all have an amazing capacity for thoughts, speech and behavior that is inconsiderate, selfish, and even evil. We can become so absorbed in our own lives that we become blind or insensitive to the circumstances of others. For those of us who have never experienced loss, grieving for a year may seem like sufficient time to calm the ache of a heart. But have we really put ourselves in the place of those parents who still see the empty chair at dinner time?

It takes a craftsman who knows wood to fashion furniture so that the pieces fit and are aesthetically pleasing. Likewise, it takes a craftsman who knows hearts to fashion words so that they fit the setting, offering peace, comfort or even rebuke, as the situation may demand. To become a craftsmen of words, studying hearts, beginning with the heart that yearns to make us righteous: God’s.

Warren Baldwin


  1. Hey there Brother Warren! I popped in to get some encouragement via your blog! Thanks!


  2. Your posts are always challenging me to be a better man. Thank you, Warren.

  3. Warren,

    Great stuff. Even though i always hear lip service paid to this idea from pulpits, i still find it so hard to get through to the hearts of people in the pew. It seems in our culture we are deeply inculcated with the notion of entitlement to free speech and the right to express our opinion that it trumps a biblical ethic of speech-related duties. Where is our allegiance???


  4. Larie - Thank you! How are your book sales going?

    Terry - And thank you!

    Guy - You ask a tough question. I think the idea of entitlement hurts us in speech and behavior, and both of these are closely linked. Rom. 1 talks about God giving us up to a host of sinful behaviors, gossip being one of them. When we gossip, do we really give any thought to the possible eternal damage we may be causing? Sounds like you have a sermon in making here!


  5. Dear Warren,

    My husband and I enjoyed your post. It is a very good lesson for us to learn. It's something you don't hear everyday. We have both experienced sadness that affects our days when lending our ears to our younger sibling's for their problems and sympathetically giving them advice. I Mrs A is especially sympathetic in this regard. I wasn't sure if that was a normal healthy Christian thing. I hope I make sense.

    Thanks for stopping by our blog and hope your encouraged to come back again. :)

    God bless you.

    Mrs. A

  6. Thanks for the visit and comment. I have enjoyed visiting at your blog, too.

    It think it says a lot for you two that you listen to the cares of your younger siblings. And, yes, it can create sadness if there are problems. That is natural. And, yes, it is a Christian thing to listen and help.

    God bless. wb