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Back Seat Serenade

January 30, 2018

“For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” Matthew 12:34

I’ll never forget a double date that Martie and I had with another couple in college. I was driving, which meant that my then fiancée, Martie, was in the front with me while the other couple was sitting in the back. My friend in the back was an All-American pitcher for our college baseball team, and he was engaged to a popular young lady on campus. As we rode along, our group conversation eventually dropped off and Martie and I thought we heard soft singing coming from the backseat. I could hardly believe it! This macho athlete was actually serenading his girlfriend! This guy had it bad—he had a “heart condition” that needed to be expressed!

We all have “heart conditions.” They’re those deeply rooted thoughts and feelings that ultimately show up in our words. Which makes our tongues the tattletales of the true condition of our heart. As Jesus said, “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.”

When we have love in our hearts, our words are kind and gentle; they build up and encourage. Humble hearts speak about what is best for others and willingly admit and apologize for being wrong. Patient hearts are slow to respond to moments of stress, and God-honoring hearts look for opportunities to give God the glory and praise for all He has done. You can tell a lot about a person by what they say—and what they don’t say.

But it’s not just good hearts that show up in our words. Unfortunately for most of us, our words often reveal the dark side of our hearts as well. As James 3:10 tells us, “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.” Proud hearts love to boast about accomplishments and are willing to use words to put others down to lift ourselves up. Angry hearts vent through our mouths, and fearful hearts often lash out verbally for self-protection and defense. Self-centered hearts turn conversations back toward us. And when your heart feels slighted, you will find that murmuring and complaining are on the tip of your tongue.

As my pastor friend says, “You know a lot about a person by listening to what spills out when they are bumped!” How true. Next time you speak, listen to your words—they are telling on your heart! And if you don’t like the kind of secrets that your words are giving away, then listen to what you’ve said so that you can know what needs to be fixed on the inside. And fixing the inside may just mean that you turn over the control of your heart to the Holy Spirit. When you do that, pride, anger, fear, self-centeredness, bitterness, and all the other demons of your haunted heart will be chased away by the love, joy, peace, and patience that only the Spirit can bring (Galatians 5:22-23).

Pay attention to the words that get you into trouble, and you’ll be able to identify and deal with the sin that is at the heart of the matter. After all, all talk is heart talk.


  • How often is your speech a sweet serenade to those around you? Make it a point to use your words to show love to someone at least once each day this week.
  • Pray and ask God to make you more aware of your words—the good and the bad. Ask Him to show you how your words relate to the condition of your heart.
  • Spend time journaling about your top verbal struggles and find a verse that relates to each one. When you are tempted to engage in that sin, quote the corresponding verse. Chart your progress in the pages of your journal.
  • Meditate on Psalm 19:14; 51:10 and ask God to give you a renewed sensitivity for His blessing on your words and your heart.