Understanding the Heart's Role in Communication

Dr. Rob Green February 14, 2009 Proverbs 18:21


Last week I asked you to meditate on Proverbs 18:21.

  • Review Proverbs 18:19-21
  • In this text we see the positive, the negative, and the summary

“Life and death are in the power of the tongue”

  • In our groups I wanted us to think through some of the ways that we use our tongue to honor the Lord, help others, and build relationships.
  • And I wanted us to think of ways we use our tongues to dishonor the Lord, harm others, and destroy relationships.

Here is basically what we came up with so far.



Words that are unkind

Words that were kind

Words that are untrue

Words that were loving

Words that were spoken at the wrong time

Words that fit the context of the situation

Words that would have been helpful but they were dressed in the wrong packaging

Words that helped us see our need done in the right spirit.

Then I asked you for homework to meditate on Prov. 4:23.  Let’s read together Prov. 4:23 / Matt. 12:34-37/ Luke 6:45.

Proverbs 4:23—Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.

Matthew 12:34-37   34 "You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.  35 "The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil.  36 "But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.  37 "For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."

Luke 6:44-45  44 "For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush.  45 "The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.

These verses make it pretty clear that our communication begins in the heart.  We have heard people say “I did not mean to say that.”  Well….that needs further qualification. 

  • Without any doubt ---- There were thoughts that ultimately produced that statement. 
  • Giving someone the benefit of the doubt would be “You choose the wrong words to express what was in your heart.”  That is a picture of immaturity --- It is a picture of a person who has some growing to do.  But their words were probably not sinful nor were they motivated by selfish desires. ---- [Asking a woman if she is pregnant because you want to share in their joy and you may have even been praying about it ----- and she ain’t pregnant. ---- They could probably have done that a little more maturely.] 
  • If we are not going to give someone the benefit of the doubt then “they said what they said because they meant to say it.”
  • Understanding this difference is not always easy and I would encourage you not to jump to conclusions (now if the words are followed by a pot flying you probably can safely assume there is some malice there).

Brief Digression

Before I keep this line of thinking going I want to mention one of the issues of life.  This part is free J.  I believe we need to have the right heart AND we need to develop the right skills.

  • I am convinced that a person who has the right heart but does not have the right skills can still regularly destroy relationships and dishonor the Lord with his/her mouth.  They get the concepts, but they struggle with the execution!
  • As much as I bash myself on the issue of communication I think I lived here. 
  • I am also convinced that a person who has the wrong heart but has some good skills will also destroy relationships and dishonor the Lord.  In part because he/she will not regularly practice those skills because their heart is evil.

So I believe that part of this communication series is about having the right heart and it is about learning the right skills.

Review of Homework

I asked you to meditate on Proverbs 18:21 because I hoped that you would come back and say, “Thank you so much for your encouragement to meditate on that text, for being able to see into my life and recognizing the need I have to control my tongue.  Thank you so much for the reminder of James 3 and the power of the tongue.  I am more committed than ever before to be one of those persons who gives life through my speech. I want to be Mr/Mrs Grace and encouragement for the praise and honor of the Lord.  I am ready to make any changes necessary for my mouth to be a mouth that praises the Lord and builds up others.”

  • O.k. so I laid it on a bit thick there --- but the point is that you would be convinced that the way you talk has a significant impact on your relationship with the Lord and with others AND that you would be willing to let the Word of God mold your thoughts and your skills over the next several weeks to change some communication habits.

New Assignment

While I am on this subject, I would like for you to identify 2 people in your life that you tend to struggle with the most in your communication. 

  • Maybe it is your spouse (we often do the best and the worst with those we are closest to), maybe a parent, an in-law, a co-worker, a professor, a fellow-student in the lab.  2 people that you specifically want to work on your communication and
  • 1 person (a friend, spouse) who will keep you accountable. ----- it can even be a small group thing!

Your assignment is to think of 2 people you want to communicate in more godly way and 1 person (or small group) that will help to keep you accountable.

Understanding the Heart’s Role in Communication

Let’s gets back to our discussion on the role of the heart.  I would like to give you a few illustrations that really began to help me see the significance that the heart played in our communication.

  • A couple from the Indianapolis area came to counseling.    They described their marriage in very positive terms except for their communication.
  • They had heard some of our counseling training material before but it had not done them any good.

In fact, I want to broaden the discussion a bit and have us consider…

Observations about Those who Struggle in the Area of Communication

These are based on a hodge-podge of experiences either from my own life or from the lives of those I have had the opportunity to minister to…..

  1. Arguments often end about something other than what started the conversation. 
  2. When is a lawn getting mowed to when is the last time we had sex, or went on a date.
  3. When are we going on a date, to why you cannot do the dishes.
  4. Arguments are so petty that any thinking person would conclude they were a complete waste of time.
  5. Wearing a coat
  6. The time for lunch
  7. In each case there was damage done to the relationship over something that they would admit was silly and childish.
  8. Arguments breed other Arguments
  9. When we fuss at one another we create a culture of fussing.  It is normal for us fuss at each other and therefore there is practically speaking no limits to the things that we will fuss about.
  10. Arguments over time grow in intensity
  11. I have rarely talked to anyone that the first time they argued they threw something.  I have talked to people who throw things when they argue but that was not the first step.
  12. At the same time arguments grew in intensity much quicker.  In other words, over time arguments had a tendency to rise in intensity much faster than they did in the beginning.
  13.  The more that people argue the less likely they will offer encouragement to each other

These are not biblical principles they are observations of human behavior. 

INPUT – Do you think that these 5 observations about communication describe you? If not what observations would you make or add to the list?

If these 5 ideas accurately describe what is taking place in your life or the lives of those around you consider…

Results of struggling with communication

Here are some possible outcomes of those who struggle with communication.

  1. An atmosphere of Intimidation and hostility is created
  2.  this is especially true when two people having different roles are involved (work, parent-child, spouse).
  3. An atmosphere of Oppression is created
  4. In other words, people feel trapped (e.g. a grad student with a .  The relationship is bad, the communication is bad and there is nothing that they can do about it.
  5. The conclusion that the only way to make it better is to leave
  6. Sometimes this means leave the relationship (to find a new job or to get a divorce)
  7. On occasion that has meant leave this life.

INPUT – What other results would you add to the list?

That led me to this question:  What explains this?  If these observations are true, then how is it that I explain what is going on in my own life and in the life of others?  What brings me to this point in some relationships and yet not in others?

I believe the answer to that is found in our hearts.  The passages we looked at earlier (Prov 4:23, Matt 12:34, Luke 6] all speak of the heart as our control center for all of life.

  • Hebrews paints this picture well.  Is Jesus so important to us that it impacts how we are entertained?  Is Jesus so important that he controls our time and schedules?
  • The same heart issue is found all over our communication.

Please turn to James 4:1-2

Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? 2You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war

The conflicts, the arguments, the destruction of relationships is controlled by

  • Your desires / pleasures
  • Once we have a certain desire in place we then take the appropriate action in order to get that desire.
  • Lust so you commit murder (remember David and Bathsheba)
  • Envious so you fight and quarrel (in order to get what they have)

In other words, the connection between Proverbs 4:23 and Proverbs 18:21 is not only that communication begins in the heart but the type of communicating I do with you is an indication of what I want to accomplish.

  • So when we seek to harm another person the reality is that we wanted to.  We were willing to say what we said in order to accomplish whatever it was that we wanted to accomplish.
  • We might try to manipulate them
  • We might try to demean them
  • But our words of harm are meant to harm the other person.
  • “Parade of homes” --- I say it because I don’t want to be irritated alone.
  • That goes the other way too.  When our hearts are right we speak words intended to bring life to our relationships.

Group Activity:  I want you to imagine the most petty argument you can think of ---- (you can make one up if you don’t feel comfortable sharing a real one).  I want you to explain the argument and then think through the desires that each party was brining to the table to encourage them to say what they said.

Here is the final assignment.

  • Please identify the 2 people you want to improve your communication with a 1 person who will serve as an accountability partner for you.
  • Please read James 1:13-15 and see if you can see the progression that is evidenced in the text and connect that progression to James 4, Prov. 18:21, and Prov. 4:23.

Dr. Rob Green


Pastor of Counseling and Seminary Ministries - Faith Church

Pastor of Counseling and Seminary Ministries - Faith Biblical Counseling Ministries

MABC Department Chair, Instructor - Faith Bible Seminary


B.S. - Engineering Physics, Ohio State University
M.Div. - Baptist Bible Seminary
Ph.D. - New Testament, Baptist Bible Seminary

Dr. Rob Green joined the Faith Church staff in August, 2005. Rob’s responsibilities include oversight of the Faith Biblical Counseling Ministry and teaching New Testament at Faith Bible Seminary. He serves on the Council Board of the Biblical Counseling Coalition and as a fellow for the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors. Pastor Green has authored, co-authored, and contributed to 9 books/booklets. Rob and his wife Stephanie have three children.

Read Rob Green's Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Green to Faith Church.