We have two granddaughters, and we have been with them in those early, formative years as they progressed from toddler gibberish to communicating with us in real language. The process is wonderful, mysterious, and holy.

They don’t realize this godlike ability separates them from all the rest of God’s creatures. They do not know how words will form into concepts and coalesce and become a life-shaping worldview. They have no idea how words will shape every relationship in their life.

They don’t know that they will use words to educate, but also to shame; to love, but also to hate; to serve, but also to demand; to encourage, but also to threaten; to motivate, but also to dominate; to express humility, but also to show pride.

They do not know the power that has been given them simply because God has entrusted to them the ability to speak. They have yet to learn that their words will indicate repeatedly how much they need to be rescued by God’s grace.

They do not know the power that has been given them simply because God has entrusted to them the ability to speak.

Our Hearts Are Control Rooms

But there is something else my dear little granddaughters don’t know. It’s captured in 10 brief words at the end of Luke 6:45, but it may be one of the Bible’s deepest, most profound and spiritually practical statements about how human beings operate: “out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” It’s one of those statements by Jesus that you could quickly read and move on to the rest of your Bible reading for that day, without stopping to reflect on the importance of what those 10 words capture.

Jesus is in the midst of explaining how human beings function—that is, why we choose what we choose and do what we do. He directs our understanding of human motivation back to one source, the heart. His premier example of the heart’s inescapable influence is our talk.

You see, the significance—the unique humanity and holiness of our talk—is not just that God gave us this ability, and in that way we are like him. More important, this ability is inextricably attached to the heart as the causal core of our personhood. Nothing more centrally defines who we are and why we do everything than the heart does. The heart controls all of our ac­tions, reactions, and interactions, from the most inconsequential choices to the most dramatic, life-shaping decisions.

Words matter because they flow out of our hearts. Communication mat­ters because what the heart is and does matters.

Words Reveal the Heart

It’s important to understand what Jesus is saying: our words do what our hearts have already done. Our words have power and value because everything the heart does has holy value in the eyes of the One who entrusted us with this ability.

The heart thinks, and our words are the way those thoughts are communicated and transferred to God and others.

The heart desires, and our words are the way we communicate what, how, why, when, and where we want the things that our hearts have come to desire.

The heart loves, and every day the loves of our hearts are intentionally or unintentionally communicated to God and to those near us.

The heart worships, and our words reveal what rules our hearts.

Our words do what our hearts have already done.

Words matter because the heart matters. This is why I am so apprecia­tive of Jeff Robinson’s book Taming the Tongue: How the Gospel Transforms Our Talk. I’ve spent the last two decades thinking about words, endeavoring to put my best words down on the page and seeking to speak words of grace wherever God gives me opportunity. But I still struggle to do with my words only what God intended.

This is a book about words that’s filled with words of humility, wisdom, warning, and grace. I wish I could say that I don’t need this book, but I still do, and I’m sure you do too. What Jeff Robinson has written is not only deep in its understanding of this powerful human ability, but also personally insightful and convicting. Here is ancient wisdom coupled with contemporary appli­cation, both of which we all need.

I’ll talk today. Sometimes my words will reflect wisdom, love, hope, and grace, but not always. And this is why I still need this book. You’ll talk too, and until you’re in heaven, your words will also be mixed in intention and vocabulary. So I commend this book to you. May the wisdom here be used of God to season your words with love for him and love for oth­ers, so that what you say will give grace to those who hear.

Editors’ note: 

This article was adapted from Paul Tripp’s foreword to Taming the Tongue: How the Gospel Transforms Our Talk by Jeff Robinson (TGC, 2021). On December 28–January 31, Taming the Tongue is 50 percent off in the TGC bookstore.