If all you do is run to the obvious communication passages in Scripture, you miss most of what the Bible has to say about your world of talk because to the degree that every passage opens up to you the nature of God, of his grace, of your sin, of life in a fallen world, and the nature of the processes of redemption—to that degree every passage gives you information that helps you to understand this world of talk.

Let's look at the first passage that will help us understand our struggle with words. There is no better place to begin than with Luke 6:43-45:

For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. 

Christ is saying something significant and important. It challenges a very tempting perspective that all of us struggle with. Christ is teaching us that we live out of our hearts.

Let's think about the language here. What does the Bible mean when it uses that word heart? The Bible essentially divides you into two pieces—your outer man and your inner man. The outer man is your physical self. It's the house God has given you for your heart while you are here on earth. You could call your body your earth suit. The Bible uses many words for the inner man: mind, emotion, soul, spirit, will. These words are all summarized by a big-basket term—heart. This term is used in almost a thousand assages of Scripture. It's one of the most well-developed themes in all of the Bible. When the Bible uses the term heart, it means the causal core of your personhood. The heart is your directional system. The heart is your steering wheel. Your behavior isn't caused by the situations and relationships outside of you. This passage teaches that your experiences influence, but do not determine, your behavior. Your behavior is shaped and caused by how your heart reacts to and interacts with the situations and relationships that are outside of you.

Jesus uses a wonderful example in the Luke passage. He says it is "out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks" (v. 45). Let this sink in for a moment. I am convinced that you and I don't want to believe that. Have you ever said to someone, "Oh, I didn't mean to say that"? It would be more biblical to say, "Please, forgive me for saying what I meant," because if it hadn't first been in your heart, it wouldn't have come out of your mouth.

My mom was a member of a Depression-era family of ten brothers and sisters. Her family was what our culture would call a classic dysfunctional family. They didn't like one another very much, but they were committed to family reunions! They were creepy sort of gatherings, I must admit. The family would gather in a hall, and as they arrived they would sit like warring nation states, sort of like a bad U.N.—or maybe like the real U.N.!

The centerpiece of the day would be a huge potluck. Everybody would bring their best dish. After the meal enough alcohol would come out to float the United States, and the family gathering would get very wild. My parents got into the habit of leaving just after the meal. They taught us how to work the table and say hello to our aunts and uncles and cousins, and before the thing got too crazy, we beat our retreat.

During one of these gatherings, my mom got involved in an evangelistic encounter with one of her siblings and didn't realize that one of her brothers had gotten very drunk. My uncle was in the room where my brother Mark and I were, and he was saying sexually perverse things about the women. My mom realized that was happening, and she ran downstairs and grabbed Mark and me and yanked us to the car. I remember it very well; I don't think our feet touched the steps. She stuffed us in the car, and before she drove away she said, "Paul and Mark, I want to say something to you, and I want you never to forget it." What she said was actually an eloquent summary of this passage in Luke. She said, "There's nothing that comes out of the mouth of a drunk that wasn't there in the first place."