The Self-Diagnosis of the Heart

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament epistle which was written by James the half brother of Jesus. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the first twelve verses of the third chapter. When you come to this particular passage of Scripture you find James transitioning to a specifically reality which for many is absolutely and incredibly difficult to read—much less actually take to heart and practice within one’s life. Any student of Scripture will know and be aware of the fact that this particular passage contains specific language concerning the tongue, and the tremendous dangers that more often than not surround its presence within our hearts and lives. What’s incredibly interesting and intriguing about this passage of Scripture is how it opens up and begins, for it doesn’t immediately open up with. James writing, speaking to, and referencing the tongue. Instead of immediately beginning and opening up this particular portion of the epistle by speaking concerning the tongue—James chooses instead to speak concerning becoming masters. Consider if you will the words which James uses to open up what we know to be the third chapter of this particular epistle: “My brethren, be not many master, knowing that we shall receive greater condemnation” (James 3:1). Please don’t move too quickly past that which James is writing in this singular verse, for with this verse James sets the stage for those who would desire to be in positions of leadership, and those who desire to be in positions of authority. Within this particular verse James writes and speaks of those who would be—and perhaps even those who desire to be—masters, for those who desire such realities within their lives will find themselves under greater condemnation and judgment. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which our Lord spoke inter Peter concerning a parable which He spoke in the hearing of all those who had gathered around him. If you turn and direct your attention to the twelfth chapter of the New Testament gospel according to the beloved physician Luke you will find the following words spoken by Jesus in response to Peter’s question:

“Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath. But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming: and shall begin to beat the men servants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; the lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be heathen with. Many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more” (Luke 12:42-48).

Please mark and mark well the words which are found in the forty-eighth and final verse of this particular passage, for within it we find what is perhaps one of the most tremendous truths concerning and regarding leadership, position, stature, authority, and the like. With this single verse Jesus the eternal Son of God brings us face to face with the reality that those who are given much, and those unto whom much is given, of those will there be required more, and of those will be asked more. We dare not miss the incredible importance of that which is found and contained within this passage of Scripture, for our Lord confronts something that is within the heart of countless men and women—namely, a desire for stature, a desire for position, a desire for authority, a desire for rank, a desire for recognition, and the like. Within this passage Jesus emphatically declares that unto those whom much is given, of those same individuals much shall be required. In other words, that which is asked of us, and that which is required of us is and will be directly proportionate to the degree and measure of what we have been given. One of the most intriguing realities found within the kingdom of God is that when we are given more we are also found in a position and place where more is asked and more is required of us. In all reality, I am convinced that one of the greatest reasons why men and women shun and shy away from being given more, and perhaps even taking on more within their lives is because they are keenly aware of the fact that the more they are given, and the more that is entrusted into their care, the more that will be asked and required of them. RESPONSIBILITY IS DIRECTLY PROPORTIONATE TO WHAT WE HAVE BEEN ENTRUSTED WITH! The greater the degree and the greater the measure of what we have been given, the greater the degree and measure of that which is being asked, and the greater the degree of what will be asked of us. Oh how many men and women willingly and voluntarily take on more responsibility and roles within their lives only to find out that they are held to a much higher standard. Within Scripture there is this extreme caution surrounding those who would desire to be in leadership, and those who would desire to be in positions of leadership, for such individuals who pursue such things will also find themselves in a place where more is asked of and more is required of them. I can’t help but think of how many men and women aren’t prepared for that which is asked of them, and that which is required of them within their lives—although and despite the fact that they heartily desire more responsibility. There are men and women among us who desire more responsibility, and desire more to be entrusted into their hands and into their care, and yet they aren’t aware of the tremendous accountability that surrounds responsibility. THE ACCOUNTABILITY OF RESPONSIBILITY! How many of us are truly aware of the accountability that surrounds responsibility, and how many of us are truly aware of that which can and that which will be asked when we are given more responsibility, more duties, more work, and greater roles of influence and authority?

There is a specific parable which Jesus told unto His disciples concerning the Last Days, and it is a parable about stewardship, responsibility and accountability. If you turn and direct your attention to the twenty-fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel according to Matthew you will find Jesus telling a parable concerning a man who traveled into a far country—a man who before leaving for his journey, called his own servants unto himself. Once in his presence and before him, this particular man entrusted and delivered unto these servants according to their ability and what they were capable of handling. Consider if you will the first couple verses of this parable of the servant, his talents, and the stewardship of his possessions: “For the kingdom of heaven is as a man traveling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey” (Matthew 25:14-15). Within the opening verses of this parable we encounter this man who was planning and preparing to travel into a far country. While he was away engaging upon this tremendous journey, this particular man wanted to make sure that his affairs and his possessions were managed and handled with great care. This man was not willing to leave his possessions, and that which belonged unto him unattended, and so he called unto himself three of his servants—perhaps three of his most worthy servants, or perhaps the only three servants he had. Scripture isn’t clear whether or not these were the only servants the man had, or whether there were other servants, but one thing we do know for sure is that these servants were called into the presence of this man in order that he might entrust into their care a measure of his wealth and possessions. Pause for a moment and consider the reality that this parable is a wonderful and powerful picture of Jesus Himself preparing to travel to a distant country and land, and yet while He is gone, He entrusted that which was most precious and that which was most valuable unto Him in the hands and care of His servants. The man within this parable knew that he was about to take this journey, and he knew that while he was away he needed to ensure that his affairs were kept in order, and that that which belonged unto him was carefully managed. In order to ensure that that which was valuable unto him, he called his servants unto himself, and entrusted into their care that which they were able and capable of handling. What is so intriguing about this parable, however, is not merely that this man entrusted into the hands and care of his servants that which was valuable unto him, but what each of these servants did with what was given unto them.

NOT ALL SERVANTS ARE ALIKE! When you read this passage of Scripture you will find that each servant was given a measure of that which belonged unto the master while he was away on his journey. The master did not leave any servant out, but gave unto each servant according to their own ability. As you read the parable you will find that there was one servant who was given five talents—particularly and especially because the master believed and felt that this servant could handle more responsibility. The master would not have given unto this servant five talents if he did not believe and was not convinced that he could handle that much responsibility. The master gave unto this servant according to his unique ability, and as a direct result of the master’s evaluation of this servant’s ability and work ethic, he felt he could entrust into his hands and into his car a great portion of his wealth and possessions. This isn’t to negate or diminish the second servant—that servant unto whom was given two talents by the master. YOU WILL NEVER BE GIVEN MORE THAN YOU CAN HANDLE! YOU WILL NEVER BE GIVEN MORE THAN WHAT YOU ARE CAPABLE OF! More often than not we allow ourselves to get caught up in what has been entrusted into the hands and into the care of others around us, and yet we don’t’ even consider that the Master never gives unto his servants more than what they can handle and work with. This servant—although he was only given two talents—was given a tremendous responsibility, and was given of the master according to the ability that was found within him. The master looked at and examined this particular servant, and felt that he was capable of handling two talents, and therefore gave him two talents to work with while he was away on the journey. The third and final servant was given one talent to handle, to care for, and to look after while the master was gone, and this talent was given unto this servant according to his ability. It would be very easy to get caught up in the fact that this servant was only given one talent, for more often than not we like comparing ourselves to those around us, and comparing what we have been given to that which they have been given. Instead of recognizing and remembering the fact that we are only given that which we are capable of handling, we murmur, we grumble and we complain about what we have been given, and more often than not we neglect the responsibility we have been given to steward what we have been entrusted with. Consider if you will that which is found in this particular parable beginning with the sixteenth verse:

“Then he that had receive the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money. After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them give talents more. His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behol.d, I have gained two other talents beside them. His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: and I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:16-30).

The more I read and consider the words which are found in this particular parable, and consider it in light of the fact that unto whom much has been given, much shall be required, I can’t help but think of two distinct laws and principles that surround such a concept. The first is that we can never and will never be given more than what we are capable of handling and working with. As surely and as certainly as we believe that the Lord will never give us more than what we can handle as it pertains to temptation, trials, trouble, tribulation, and the like, so also must we come face to face with the fact that the Lord can never and will never give unto us more than what we are capable of handling. The Lord is very much aware of our abilities, and the Lord is very much aware of what we able to handle within and throughout the course of our lives, and the Lord gives us only in direct proportion to that reality. How many men and women find themselves looking for and desiring more than what they have been given, and yet not only do they forget that the Lord will not give them more than what they can handle, but also that the Lord requires faithfulness with what has been entrusted into their care. Oh, how many men and women may desire more to be entrusted into their care, and yet they haven’t even proven themselves faithful with what they have been given? Of the three servants which the master entrusted a portion of his possessions and goods, two of them were faithful with what was entrusted unto them, while one was not only unfaithful, but also irresponsible with what his master had entrusted into his care. Perhaps the single greatest question we must ask ourselves is whether or not we are being faithful and obedient with that which the master has entrusted into our care. I can’t help but be reminded of, and think of a powerful example found in the Old Testament of one who was neither faithful, nor obedient with that which the Lord had entrusted into his care. The one I speak of is none other than Saul who was the first king of the newly formed nation and kingdom of Israel. If you begin reading with and from the tenth verse of the fifteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of First Samuel you will find Samuel being sent by the Lord to confront Saul with the word and work which was entrusted into his care. It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand that not only was Saul entrusted with the word which was given unto and entrusted into his care—the word concerning the destruction of Amalek—but he was also entrusted with the work associated with the word, for he was to utterly destroy Amalek from the earth. The account goes on to reveal how not only did Saul spare Agag king of Amalek, but Saul also spared the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the failings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them. Beginning with the tenth verse of this chapter we find the Lord’s response to Saul—the Lord’s response to Saul’s unfaithfulness and disobedience to the word and work which was entrusted into his care:

“Then came the word of the Lord unto Samuel, saying, It repenteth. Me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments. And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto the Lord all night. And when Samuel rose early to meet Saul in the morning, it was told Samuel, saying, Saul came to Carmel, and, behold, he set him up a place, and is gone about, and passed on, and gone down to Gilgal. And Samuel came unto Saul: and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the Lord: I have performed the commandment of the Lord. And Samuel said, What meanteth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear? And Saul said, They have brought them from the Amalekites: for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed. Then Samuel said unto Saul, Stay, and I will tell thee what the Lord hath said to me this nigh. And he said unto him, Say on. And Samuel said, When thou was little in thine own sight, was thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the Lord anointed thee king over Israel? And the Lord sent thee on a journey, and said, Go and utterly destroy the sinners the Amalekites, and fight against them until they be consumed. Wherefore then didst thou not obey the voice of the Lord, but didst fly upon the spoil, and didst evil in the sight of the Lord? And Saul said unto Samuel, Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and have gone the way which the Lord sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief ofd the things which should have been utterly destroy, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in Gilgal. And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, He hath also rejected thee from being king” (1 Samuel 15:10-23).

Within this particular passage of Scripture we find one unto whom was entrusted the care of the people of Israel, as well as the word and work of the Lord of hosts. As king over the nation and people of Israel Saul was entrusted with the stewardship and care of that which was the apple of His eye. In this particular passage of Scripture we find that Saul was entrusted with the word and work of the Lord, for Saul was entrusted with the word of destruction, and was entrusted with the work of carrying out that which the Lord had commanded. Saul was given much by the Lord—not only in terms of caring for the people of Israel, but also for carrying out the word and work of the Lord in the earth. When we read the words which James writes in the third chapter of this epistle, I can’t help but be confronted with the awesome reality that those who desire to be masters must be carefully and acutely aware of the fact that as such they will be entrusted with the word and work of the Lord within the earth. Not only are such asked more and are required more of by the Lord, but they shall also be held to a greater standard and judgment before and by the Lord. James emphatically declared that those who are masters shall receive the greater condemnation and the greater judgment, and then transitions to speak of how in many things we offend all. James goes on to write how if any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able to bridle the whole body. Please don’t miss the importance of that which James is writing and speaking in this passage, for not only does James declare that in many things we offend all, but James also goes on to speak of those who can somehow have the testimony that they offend not in word, for such an individual is a perfect man, and is able to bridle the whole body. What I find to be so incredibly challenging about this particular passage is the direct connection and link between bridling our tongue and our mouth, and bridling our body. IN other words, there is this intrinsic link between our ability to bridle our tongue and our ability to bridle our body, for those who are able to b bridle their tongue should also be able to bridle their body. In all reality, I would dare say that that individual who is unable and incapable of bridling their tongue, and is unable and incapable of bridling their lips and mouth, is also unable and incapable of bridling their body. In other words—show me a man or a woman who is unable to bridle their tongue, and I will show you a man or woman who is also unable to bridle and control their physical body and the members thereof. It is absolutely necessary and critical that we understand this link between our tongue and our physical body, for our tongue has the ability to control our entire physical body. What’s more, is that I would dare say that such bridling and such control begins with our tongue, for the tongue is in all reality the hardest and most difficult member of our bodies to tame and control.

I wonder how many men and women would agree with the statement that the tongue is perhaps the single greatest member within our bodies to tame, to bridle, to control, and to handle. I would dare say that anyone who somehow disagrees with this statement is not in touch with reality, and needs an incredible encounter with the words which James writes in this passage of Scripture. James would go on to speak of offending in word, and if we are honest with ourselves and each other, the single greatest way we offend those around us is through word—through that which proceeds forth from our lips and our mouth. While it is true and while it is possible for us to offend those around us in deed, I am convinced that the greater way we offend those around us is through the words which proceed and come out of our mouths. Tell me dear brother, tell me dear sister—how often do you think about the impact and affect the words you speak have on those around you? How often do you think about and consider the tremendous influence your words have on those who you interact with on a daily basis—whether for good or for bad? Moreover, how often do you think about whether or not the words which proceed from your mouth has offended, or could offend that brother or that sister around you? How many times do you carefully consider the words which come out of your mouth before they even proceed forth, and how often are you impacted and affected by the words you have spoken after they have already been released? If there is one thing we must recognize and understand concerning words and the power of words, is that words can never be taken back or reversed. Once the words have proceeded and come forth out of your mouth, it is utterly impossible to take them back, for they have already been released. Oh, how many of us carefully consider the words which could proceed forth from our lips, as we think about and consider the impact and affect they could have on others? Please note that this doesn’t just suggest and speak of how it affects those in the physical and natural realm, but it also directly impacts and affects the supernatural realm, as our words can have a tremendous impact and affect on the living God who sits upon the throne. The words we speak impact and affect more than our brothers and sisters, but they are also heard by heaven, and are either pleasing and acceptable in the sight of the Lord, or they are displeasing. I am reminded of the words of the psalmist who not only prayed that the words of their mouth, but also the meditation of their heart would be pleasing and acceptable in the sight of the Lord. We would be wise to recognize and understand that the words which proceed forth from out mouth and the meditations of our heart are intrinsically linked and connected, and cannot be separated by any stretch of the imagination. Try as hard as we may to separate the two from each other, we must come face to face with the reality that the words which we speak and the meditations (thoughts, inclinations) of our heart are intrinsically linked, and the one is directly dependent on the other. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which we find in the fifteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew—a chapter that begins with the scribes and Pharisees asking concerning the disciples transgressing the traditions of the elders by not washing their hands when they eat bread:

“But He answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the dead. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; and honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophecy of you, saying, This people draweth night unto me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand: Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man. The came his disciples and said, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, aafter they heard this saying? But he answered and said, Every plant, which my Heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch. Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable. And Jesus aid, Are ye yet also without understanding? Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever enteresth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the drought? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the hard proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: these are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man” (Matthew 15:3-20).

James wrote concerning horses being taught to obey and tamed by using bits in their mouth, and how ships are controlled and maneuvered by such a small piece of equipment as a rudder. The point that James was trying to establish and point out was that just as horses and ships are controlled by such small members, so also are our bodies controlled by such a small member—namely, our tongue and the words which are permitted to proceed forth from out lips. With that being said, it is necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand that our tongue is directly linked and connected to our heart, and that as surely as our bodies are turned, controlled and maneuvered by such a small member, our tongue is directly impacted and affected by our heart. In other words, show me the words which proceed forth from your mouth, and I will show you the condition of your heart. If you want to truly understand the condition and nature of your heart, you need only listen to and examine the words which proceed forth from your mouth, for nothing ever proceeds forth from your mouth that hasn’t first begun and been found within your heart. It was Jesus who declared that those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those things are what defile the man. Oh, how many times have we been and become defiled because of the words which have proceeded forth from our lips and our mouth? How many times have we allowed the entire course of our life to be dictated and controlled by the words which have proceeded forth from our lips? James would go on to write how the tongue is a little member, and boasts great things. What’s more, James also goes on to write how great a matter a little fire kindles, and how the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity, which has the ability to defile the whole body. Tell me—when was the last time you were aware of becoming defiled—not because of your actions and behaviors, but rather because of the words which have proceeded forth from your lips? How many times have our bodies been defiled and our entire day been set on fire because of the fire that spread from our tongue, and the words which proceeded from our mouths?

James writes how the tongue sets on fire the course of nature, and how it is set on fire of hell itself, and we would be incredibly wise to pay attention to such words. I am convinced that we don’t spend enough time truly seeking to be mindful of the words which proceed forth from our lips and from our mouths, and instead allow ourselves to speak freely however and whenever we choose to and desire. Such is a tremendous danger—not only to ourselves, but also to those around us, for our words and our tongue have the power and the ability to completely set on fire those around us. Oh, imagine what would happen, and imagine how your day(s) would go if you considered carefully every word which came forth and proceeded from your lips and your mouth. I am convinced that this is one of the greatest reasons why speaking in tongues is so incredibly vital and necessary, for speaking in tongues is a direct result of the very Spirit of the living God laying hold of and getting hold of our hearts and out mouths. I know that I have great need—not only of being mindful of the words which proceed and come forth from my lips, but also concerning the condition of my heart. It would be very easy to merely treat the words which proceed from our lips, and completely neglect the true root and cause of the issue. Such neglect and such ignorance only puts a bandaid on the situation, and is like cutting down weeds instead of pulling them up by the root. How many of us are content dealing with the symptoms rather than dealing with the actual sickness, the action infection and the cancer of the issue? It is not enough to merely examine our words without also examining the condition of our hearts, for it is our hearts which completely and utterly control our lips and our mouth. It is true that the Lord searches, tries and knows the reigns of the heart, and it is true that the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, but I would argue that it is possible for us to diagnose the condition of our hearts by paying attention to the words which proceed forth from our mouths. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we ask the Lord to search our hearts, to examine them, and to change and created within us a clean heart, but it is also true that we become aware of our responsibility to self-diagnose the condition of our hearts by listening to the words which proceed forth from our mouths. It is possible for us to self-diagnose the condition and nature of our heart by putting our words under careful scrutiny and examination, for only when we are ready, willing and able to do so are we able to truly experience change and transformation within our hearts—and not only within our hearts, but also with the words which we speak.

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