Practical Lessons on the Experience of Life, by Witness Lee

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We must learn to have our speech, word, and conversation with others full of Christ. In addition, our speech must be seasoned with salt. The sisters know how to season the things they cook; most foods are prepared with seasoning. To season is to temper something. To season our speech properly is always to control or check it. As a member of the church, as one who is learning the lesson of being built up, we must have our speech and conversation always tempered, seasoned, controlled, and checked in whatever we say. Our speech should not be “cooked” without being “seasoned.”

The meaning of salt is very deep. To understand this requires our experience and the proper, adequate knowledge of the Bible. The meal offering of the Old Testament was made of fine flour with three things: oil, frankincense, and salt. The meal offering needed to be seasoned with salt, but it was never to have honey. In typology, oil signifies the Holy Spirit, frankincense signifies the sweet resurrection life of Christ, and salt typifies the death, the killing element, of the cross. Salt does not give a sweet taste; rather, it kills germs. By our experience, we know that all our speech and conversation must be salted by the killing element of the cross. They must be seasoned by the cross, that is, checked and controlled by the cross. To have our words seasoned with salt is to have them always checked by the cross.

Checking the Motive of Our Speech

From my experience I have learned that there are three all-inclusive ways to apply the cross to our speech. First, whenever we are about to say something, we first must check our motive. Our motive must be pure and even purified. If we would check our motive in speaking, we will see where we are; then we will see the need of the cross. Immediately this application of the cross will kill the intention and motivation behind our talk. Then we may drop what we were going to speak because we realize that our motive was not pure; it needs to be purified. This purification will kill our intention to speak, and we will have nothing to say.

I learned the lesson to deal with my mouth in 1933 and 1934. I found out that it is very hard to be right and proper in our talking. If we would learn to be careful in this matter, we will see that the best way is to keep our mouth shut. At that time I found that after I spoke, I always had to confess that I was wrong. Almost every time I wrote a letter, I had to write it at least two or three times. Sometimes after writing it, I would realize that a certain sentence did not have a pure motive behind it. The motive may have been to glorify myself, condemn others, or expose their weaknesses. Oh, the motive! If we would check our motive and reconsider our writing, we will have to throw it into the wastebasket. We will realize that our motives are not pure.

The Lord Jesus said, “And I say to you that every idle word which men shall speak, they will render an account concerning it in the day of judgment” (Matt. 12:36). An idle word is a word that is not necessary. All such idle words which we speak will have to be dealt with in the day of judgment. I found out that it is not easy to keep silent, and it is even harder not to speak anything wrongly. If we take this word and put it into practice, we will see our problem; we will see our motive. Then if we all learn the lesson, it will be easy to have the building up of the church.

However, if we do not learn the lesson but rather speak carelessly, then day by day by our foolish talk we will unconsciously tear down the church, not build it up. Please allow me to say that even though you have come here to carry out the building up of the church, you do not know how much you have already torn it down by your foolish talk. I have seen this for the past thirty years in many places, and I have seen the same thing happen here. This is why my burden is to point this out to you in the way of training. Some may say that their talk is fellowship, but in actuality it is careless talk. Fellowship is right and necessary, but we are too careless in our talk. To say careless is conservative; strictly speaking, if we would check our talk, we will see that we are not only careless but wrong and impure in motive. Our motive needs to be purified.

We are sons of light, so we must stay in the light to check the motive of our speech. Then we will see that it is not a matter of having something right or wrong to speak. What we speak may be one hundred percent right, but our motive may be wrong. This means that our speech has not been seasoned with salt, the killing of the cross. It is full of damaging germs. James 3:8 says that the tongue is full of “deadly poison.” According to the Greek, this phrase means a “death-bringing poison.” Because our speech is not pure in motive, it sometimes has a poison that brings death into the church life. Therefore, we must check our speech and conversation for its motive: What is our motive in talking in this way; what is our motive in telling people certain things? We should not check ourselves according to the things we say. To check according to the things themselves gives us an excuse and a pretense. This will not help us; it will damage us. Rather, we must check our speech by our motive.

(Practical Lessons on the Experience of Life, Chapter 17, by Witness Lee)