I’ve heard it said that, if you’re looking for shade, the best time to plant a tree would have been twenty years ago. The second best time is now. In other words, when you realize something that you should have been doing a long time ago isn’t happening, the next best time to begin doing it is now. So, what does that mean for us today? One deficiency that appears to have taken root in our time is the failure to train a generation (or two, or three) to speak words of wisdom and justice in the same breath.
The psalmist David writes:
The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom;
his tongue speaks what is just.
The instruction of his God is in his heart;
his steps do not falter.
Psalm 37:30-31 (CSB)
David reminds us that the righteous speak with both wisdom and justice. So, how in the world do we train generations to speak this way?
Teach the Centrality of the Word of God
According to Psalm 37, the Word of God first being hidden in our hearts informs speech laced with wisdom and justice. This is nothing new to many of us. We are familiar with the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount when He states that it is out of the overflow of the heart that the mouth speaks. Yet, we’ve tried to correct poor speech choices by limiting characters, calling it cultural relevance, or simply remaining silent. If we’re going to train generations to speak with wisdom and justice, we must begin and persist in teaching and upholding the centrality of the Word of God. For without it, we know not wisdom, and there is no justice.
Promote Belief that Leads to Action
David also suggests in Psalm 37 that the righteous who speak with wisdom and justice make decisions that demonstrate the holiness of God. Now, thank God for His grace. None of us are anywhere near capable of a lifelong journey of steps that “do not falter.” But, to train future generations on how to speak with both wisdom and justice, we must teach that words alone, apart from consistent and supporting actions, often nullify the influence of even the most eloquent of orators. Psalm 119:11 says, “I have treasured your word in my heart so that I may not sin against you.”
Train for Wise Confrontation
We’ve learned to fight in our day from the other side of a screen. We can war with words from the safety of the couch, the car, or the coffee shop. And oftentimes, there is no accountability, only perceived success based on the number of likes, shares, or retweets. We must train the generations to engage in conversation in a way that honors the Lord, fights for meaningful relationships, and does the work of building up the body of Christ. Sometimes that is easy, sometimes it is not. We must train people to engage in confrontation wisely with the end in mind—restoration and gospel advancement.
Set an Example
“Do as I say, not as I do” won’t cut it. If we intend to train generations to speak with wisdom and justice, we must demonstrate how to do this. About four years ago, the Lord used the ministry environment I was serving in to convict me to be the things I was frustrated I didn’t see. If I was aggravated by a lack of encouragement, I was going to become an encourager. If no one was asking hard questions, I was going to ask hard questions. If no one was willing to show up early to unlock the doors for people in our community to gather in our facility, I was going to wake up early to do this. Now, unfortunately, I fail at this far more often that I’d like to admit. Training requires modeling, and we must demonstrate what it means to speak words of wisdom and justice if we desire to see that among those that will come along behind us.
According to Psalm 37, having the Word of God in our hearts produces lives that reflect the holiness of the Lord. The result of this is wise and just speech. This right speech is sandwiched on one side by the right belief and motivation within us, and on the other by right actions and demonstration of those beliefs.
If there were ever a time in our world that this type of speech could turn heads, it is now. If there were ever a time in our network of churches that this type of speech could convict and comfort, it is now. And, if there were ever a generation that could turn the tide on this epidemic of abusive, derogatory, unwise, and unjust speech, it is ours. The best time to start doing this was twenty years ago, and the next best time is now.
Steven Ackley, his wife Emily, and their four kids live out their love for anything sports and Cookout milkshakes in Murfreesboro, TN where Steven serves as the NextGen and College Pastor at LifePoint Church. Steven holds a D.Min. and an MDiv from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. You can connect with him on Twitter.