Robert Jeffress - You Never Have To Explain What You Don't Say
"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me". That childhood chant probably ranks as the greatest all-time lie only surpassed by our parent's speech: this is going to hurt me more than it hurts you. Before they walloped us as kids. Remember that? The fact is long after our broken bones had mended, we still feel the sting of hurtful words spoken to us. Words have great power: words we speak, words we listen to: to bring great harm into our life. And that's why if we're going to be successful in life, and that's what the Book of Proverbs is all about, Solomon says we have to learn how to guard our speech.
It is impossible to be successful in life without knowing how to control your tongue. In fact, out of the 31 chapters of Proverbs - did you know Solomon devotes 150 Proverbs to the subject of controlling our speech? It is a major issue in the Book of Proverbs. Today we're going to look at the Solomon secret for success when it comes to our speech, and it's simply this: you never have to explain what you don't say. And Solomon is going to talk about today specifically four kinds of speech we ought to avoid at all cost if we want to be successful in life.
Again, Solomon's Proverbs are filled with admonitions about our speech. In Proverbs 5:1-2 Solomon writes, "My son, give attention to my wisdom, incline your ear to my understanding: that you may observe discretion and your lips may reserve knowledge". Or jot down Proverbs 21:23, "He who guards his mouth and his tongue, guards his soul from troubles". What kind of speech are we to guard ourselves against Solomon?
First of all, and jot this down, Solomon says we are to avoid FALSE SPEECH. Turn over to Proverbs 6 beginning with verse 16, there are six things, seven things which are an abomination to him. Look at verse 16, "There are six things which the Lord hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers".
If you notice three of these top seven have to do with speech: a lying tongue, a false witness, spreading strife among brothers. Make no mistake about it - God absolutely hates lying and he hates liars. Ladies and gentlemen, what the Word of God is saying is this: when you and I lie, we tell an untruth - we are behaving more like a child of Satan, than we are a child of God. And that's why God hates lying. Solomon also warned against lying in Proverbs 6:12. He said, "A worthless person, a wicked man, is the one who walks with a false mouth". Proverbs 12:19, "truthful lips will be established forever, but a lying tongue is only for a moment". Proverbs 21:6, "The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor, the pursuit of death".
Now when Solomon says we ought to run from falsehood, this is important to understand, he's not talking about just refraining from telling those all-out whoppers we all tell now and again. What he's talking about is any kind of variation from the truth. When he warns against the deceitful mouth and devious lips, I think he is talking about three kinds of false speech that we need to abstain from. When he talks about avoiding falsehood, first of all, he means avoid flattery. Flattery is one kind of false speech that Solomon writes about repeatedly.
Now what is flattery? Flattery is simply telling people what they want to hear instead of what they need to hear. And the person who engages in flattery really shows his contempt, his hatred for the person he's flattering because what he's really saying is: I'm more concerned about meeting my agenda than I am meeting your needs. The flatterer, the one who offers flattery eventually is going to have his insincerity exposed. But the one who listens to flattery is going to get tripped up as well. The fact is when you listen to that stuff, you listen to what you want to hear instead of what you need to hear the result is going to be disastrous. Secondly, another type of false speech is what the Bible refers to as distortions or perversions of the truth.
I love the story about the pastor who was at a denominational convention and one of his colleagues walked up to him and said: how many are you running in your church these days? The pastor said: oh, between 5 and 600. The colleague went home and the next week happened to receive the guy's bulletin from his church in the mail. He looked at the attendance, it said: 67. He was kinda confused so he called his friend up. He said: I thought you said you run between 5 and 600 in attendance. He said: we do. He said: well it says 67 here. The pastor said: well, 67 is between 5 and 600. Well, he was technically telling the truth, but he was distorting the truth.
You see that's what the distortion is. It's telling the truth with an intention to deceive. Now the Bible doesn't use the word "Distortion": it uses the word "Perversion". Proverbs 19:1, "Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than he who is perverse in speech and is a fool". Did you know that word "Perverse" - it doesn't mean telling dirty one-liners? That's not what he's talking about. The word "Perverse" or "To pervert" means to twist, to distort. Solomon says you need to run as far as you can from even trying to distort what is true to deceive another person.
Thirdly, Solomon says we ought to avoid exaggerations. Exaggerations - adding to the truth. Once I was preaching a message and I was relating a personal story about something that happened to me. And admittedly it sounded beyond belief: I mean it was such an amazing set of circumstances it really sounded beyond belief. But it was absolutely true. I was told later that while I was telling the story a little boy turned to his father and said: do you believe that really happened to Dr. Jeffress? The father said: no son, he's just preaching.
Now, you know the fact is - let's admit it - we all have the tendency to make a good story better by just embellishing a little bit of truth, but the Bible says we are to abstain from all exaggeration. See the problem with lies, distortions, exaggerations is eventually they're going to be exposed and we're going to be embarrassed. You know what the Bible says? One day all liars, all perverters of truth, all exaggerators, all the distorters one day are going to have to face the music. And that's why we need to run from all falsehood. Secondly, Solomon gives another kind of speech we need to avoid if we're going to be successful in life, and that is divisive speech. That is, speech that leads to division among human beings.
And he talks about specifically two types of divisive speech we ought to run from. The first kind of divisive speech is gossip. Gossip is secret private communication meant to harm another person. And Solomon points out two problems with gossip: that is, secret communication meant to hurt another person. First of all, listening to or practicing gossip robs you of valuable time. Did you know that? Gossip takes time away from other valuable pursuits in our life. We all only have so many hours to live. And when we spend our time talking on the cell phone, texting, checking Facebook to see what so-and-so is up to so we can talk to somebody else about it we are taking valuable time away from pursuing our goals that will lead to true satisfaction in life.
The first problem with gossip is that it robs us of valuable time, but secondly, gossip always backfires. Solomon says gossip always backfires. If a gossip is willing to break somebody else's confidence and talk to you, what makes you think they won't break your confidence when they quote you to other people? It always backfires, unless you want your innermost life exposed don't hang around with those who engage in gossip.
Now there's a second type of divisive speech Solomon warns against, and that is SLANDER. Slander is gossip's first cousin. Now remember gossip is secret communication, but the word "Slander" means literally "To strike, to speak out against". To slander somebody is to openly condemn another person. The person who slanders is so convinced that the person he's talking about is wrong and deserves to have his reputation destroyed that the slanderer says: I'm going to be both the judge, the jury, and the executioner of this person's reputation.
The problem with slander is it causes us to make judgments about other people that we're not equipped to make. Whenever we slander somebody, whenever we judge somebody's character we are performing a role that only God can perform and God does not like having his position being usurped. Whenever you judge an individual, what he is saying is: don't try to discern a person's motives, you leave that to God. Only God is the one who knows what is in a person's heart. We are never to destroy another person's reputation.
There's a third kind of speech we're to avoid if we're to be successful in life, Solomon says, and that is PREMATURE SPEECH. Premature speech. I have a friend in another church who used to annoy the heck out of me because when we were in a meeting, a committee meeting of any kind he would barely speak. And if he did speak, he would be the last one to speak in the meeting. In fact, whenever I would talk to him individually, I had to pull his opinion out of him. And one time I asked him, I said: why are you so reluctant to speak up in a meeting, and why are you always last to speak? He said: "Pastor, I learned a long time ago that the first person who speaks in an argument or a business deal loses".
Did you know Solomon said the same thing? Solomon understood what every good trial attorney understands. It's not the first lawyer that speaks, it's the last lawyer that speaks that has the most profound effect upon the jury. Proverbs 18:17, Solomon said, "The first to plead his case seems just, until another comes and examines him". Or Proverbs 25:8, "Do not go out hastily to argue your case: otherwise, what will you do in the end, when your neighbor puts you to shame"? By the way, if you're the one who's trying to be persuaded by other people - don't make your judgment too hastily until you have all of the facts. Proverbs 18:13 says, "He who gives an answer before he hears, it is a folly and a shame to him".
The fourth kind of speech, and boy this is difficult, but Solomon says we better avoid it if we want to be successful is UNNECESSARY SPEECH. Unnecessary speech. Now here is a factoid to file away for future use: did you know the average person speaks anywhere from 10.000-20.000 words a day? That's enough words to fill up a small book: 10.000-20.000 words a day. But the average American reads less than one book in a year. We speak a book's worth of information every day: we read less than a book a year. Now, what happens when there's such a disparity between our intake and our output of words? The result is often empty and even harmful words. That's why Solomon warned in Proverbs 10 :19, "When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise".
Star that verse. Memorize it this week. It will protect you more than any other verse I know in Proverbs about your speech. Where there are many words, sin is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise. I think Solomon would agree with comedian Will Durant who said, "Nothing is often a good thing to do, and almost always a clever thing to say". Learn the importance of refraining from unnecessary speech. Well, we've talked about the four kinds of speech Solomon says we need to run from. How do we apply these truths into our life? Let me close today by suggesting to you very quickly five principles that will help you guard your speech. Principle number one: refrain from unnecessary words.
I remember reading the advice that former White House spokesman Larry Speakes gave to incoming White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater. He said, "Marlin, remember this: you never have to explain what you don't say". The next time you're tempted to pick up the cell phone and chat endlessly, or to text somebody just remember those words. You never have to explain what you don't say. Secondly, refuse to criticize anyone until you've talked with him personally. Instead of engaging in gossip or slander, make this rule not to criticize anyone until you've talked to him personally.
You say: why, I'm just trying to help the person. I'm just trying to correct them so that they can have a better life. Listen, there's a vast difference between correction and criticism. Correction has as its goal the restoration of an individual. Criticism has as its goal the condemnation of an individual. A correction, if you're really correcting somebody you'll deal as privately as possible with that person. If you're simply criticizing them, you'll deal as publicly as possible with that person. In Proverbs 12:18 Solomon highlighted that difference. He said, "There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword", that's the critic, "But the tongue of the wise brings healing".
All of us almost every day run into people who need to be corrected. It may be a child, maybe an employee, maybe a fellow Christian: but if we really are trying to help that person, we'll deal as privately as possible with that person. Like Jesus said in Matthew 18, he said how you go about restoring somebody, you go to him in private without anybody else knowing. That doesn't work only then do you take two or three people with you and as you follow that progression, it's always you start as privately as possible. Before you criticize somebody, ask yourself: have I talked to that person? Now hear me on this: before you listen to any criticism about another person: before you listen to it ask yourself: have you talked to that person yet? Would you like me to go with you and we'll talk to that person together about your concern? You'll be amazed at how quickly the conversation ends.
Refuse to listen to criticism of somebody who's not personally talked to the individual. Thirdly, if we're going to control our speech, we need to commit to remove all lies, exaggerations, and distortions from our speech. We should try to make the commitment to remove all lies, all exaggerations, all distortions from our speech. In Ephesians 4:25 the apostle writes, "Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another". Before you say something, ask yourself is this really 100% the truth. But just because it's true doesn't mean you ought to speak it. There are two more tests. Is it needful? That is, does it help a person for me to say this? And number three: is it kind? In Ephesians 4:29, Paul says, "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification". That word means "To build up".
When you speak something to somebody, ask yourself: is that building up a person or is it tearing down the person? Is it encouraging them in their walk with God or is it discouraging them in their walk with God? Is it true? Is it building up, is it needful? And then he goes on to say, "According to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear". Is the word I'm speaking filled with grace? Is it filled with kindness? Or is it filled with bitterness? Number four, to control our speech remind yourself of the need to purify your heart. Your tongue reveals what is inside your heart. If your speech is filled with dirty jokes and double entendres - it simply reveals that your heart is controlled by lust. If your words are filled with anger and venom - it reveals a heart that is controlled by bitterness.
Jesus said it this way in Matthew 15:11, "Not what enters into the mouth defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this is what defiles the man". Jesus said our tongue is like a bucket that goes down into the innermost part of our being and brings up what is in our heart. The way we purify our heart so that we can purify our speech is by meditating on God's word. How can a man cleanse his ways? By keeping his way according to thy word. Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against God. Finally, how do we control our speech? Remember your accountability to God for your words. Remember your accountability to God for your words.
I had an experience a few years ago I hope I never have to repeat again. I was called to testify in a federal lawsuit. And I went up and stood before the judge, raised my right hand, put my other hand on the Bible, swore to tell the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth so help me God. I sat down in the witness chair and the plaintiff's attorney first grilled me for a long time. And then the defendant's attorney grilled me, and then the judge who didn't particularly like me anyway. He said he had a few questions for me as well. And all the time I was talking I looked over out of the side and I saw a court reporter down there recording every word that I was speaking. Every word. And I realized that in the future both sets of lawyers, and the judge were going to pour over every word that I said: and I better not speak any untruth not only to avoid embarrassment, but to avoid jail time as well.
It was really a very sobering experience. But folks did you know the Bible says there's another judge even more powerful than a federal judge who is one day going to evaluate every word that we speak? If you don't believe that, listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 12:36-37. He said, "But I tell you that every careless word that men shall speak, they shall render account of it in the Day of Judgment. For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you will be condemned". I don't pretend to understand all that means, but what I do know is this: false words, abusive words, divisive words that we speak by the thousands they just don't float up into nothingness and disappear. Jesus said one day they're going to come back to us like boomerangs, and one day we shall give an account of them. That's the best reason I know for guarding your speech. Remember what Solomon said? You will never have to explain what you don't say.