Does Your Speech Betray You? – Theology Essay
As I stood in line at the check-out counter, I listened to the cashier talk to a customer. Her accent sounded very familiar. When it was my turn to pay for my items, I asked her, “Are you by chance from Herrick, IL?” “Why yes,” she replied with a surprised look on her face. “How did you
know?” “Your accent sounds like it,” I replied. A few days earlier I had talked to a relative of mine from Herrick who had the same distinct accent as the cashier.
I’ve always been fascinated by accents. The other day I happened to be in Sullivan, IL and had some time to spare, so I went into the public library. I noticed that the librarian’s accent was distinctly similar to other residents of the area. The librarian confirmed my assumption that she was a lifetime resident. My wife spent much of her childhood in Wisconsin. Even though we have lived over 17 years in Southern Illinois, many people recognized her northern and distinct Wisconsin accent. Her speech betrayed her.
During the past presidential campaign the Democratic campaign committee purchased several political commercials in Spanish to target the Hispanic voters. But, Newsweek reported, that these commercials were not readily accepted by Hispanics because each community knew the speaker was not “one of them”. How did they know? By the speaker’s accent – his speech betrayed him.
I recently was talking with a man who used offensive language and peppered his speech with occasional profanities. I thought to myself, “This man needs Jesus, as he surely is not a Christian.” I was appalled when I discovered that he claimed to a believer and attended a church of the same denomination that I do. No one is perfect, but one’s life and speech should be different when they invite Christ into their life and become a believer. (II Corinthians 5:17) The more time you spend with Jesus, the more you will act like Him and talk like Him. Perhaps this man was a new Christian or hadn’t spent a lot of time with Jesus. Perhaps Corrie ten Boom was right when she said “Just because a mouse is in the cookie jar doesn’t make it a cookie.” A true “born again” experience and relationship with Jesus will radically change you.
When Jesus was arrested and put on trial by the Jewish council, Peter sat outside the palace to see what would happen. When bystanders accused him of being one of Jesus’ followers, in fear of the Jews, he denied even knowing Jesus. At last, one of the bystanders said to Peter, “Surely you are also one of them for your speech betrays you” (Matthew 26:73). The New American Standard Version translates it, “Surely you too are one of them, for the way you talk gives you away.” “You must be one of them; we can tell by your Galilean accent” (New Living Translation).
Ask yourself, “Does my speech betray me? Can people tell who I follow by my speech and my life?” One’s speech is very important. It is a barometer of the heart. Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34-35). Does your speech betray you?
James tells us, “Does a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter . . . so can no fountain both yield salt water and bitter” (James 3:11-12). “Therewith bless we God, even the Father and therewith curse we men . . . out of the same mouth proceeds blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be” (James 3:9-10 KJV).
Believer’s speech should be distinct. “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned as it with salt” (Colossians 4:6). George MacDonald admonished, “What you have to do is to let your light shine. I do not mean that you should be an example to other people. You have no business setting yourself up as an example; you have to be and to do and that is letting your light shine. It ought not to be possible to mistake a Christian for a person of the world.”
Jesus warned us that we will give an account for every idle word. (Matthew 12:36) Does your speech betray you negatively? If so, what should you do? “Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your soul” (James 1:21 NASB). Jesus is the living Word. (John 1) Receive Him as Savior and Lord by faith. He will change you from the inside out. (II Corinthians 5:17).
When the prophet Isaiah saw the Lord in His holiness, he was smitten and cried out, “Woe is me, I have seen the Lord and I am a man of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:1-7). An angel took a burning coal from the altar and touched it Isaiah’s lips and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.”
The first of the Holy Spirit will bring transformation, cleansing, and forgiveness. Put faith in Jesus who died on the cross for the sins of the world and arose victorious from the dead. Does your speech betray you? “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).