Holy Talk and Smooth Words – What they tell us

1Co 2:1-2 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. (2) For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

C.H. Spurgeon, writing in his autobiography [Volume 1, The Early Years, Banner of Truth], recalled lecturing students in his Pastors’ College about the arrogant style of speech so many in, as he called it, the “Establishment” church use to impress their listeners. With the ingenious sarcasm only Spurgeon could utilize, he said:

“There is an ecclesiastical twang which is much admired in the Establishment, a sort of steeple-in-the-throat grandeur, an aristocratic, theologic, parsonic, supernatural, infra-human mouthing of language and rolling over of words. It may be illustrated by the following specimen – ‘He that hath yaws to yaw, let him yaw,’ which is a remarkable, if not impressive, rendering of a Scripture text. Who does not know the hallowed way of pronouncing – ‘Dearly beloved brethren, the Scripture moveth us in divers places’?”

The point Spurgeon was making of course is that genuine pastors, and true Christians, do not put on airs in their speaking in order to be seen as unusually pious and godly. The thing is repugnant to a real child of God.

I have observed many times a certain sort of persons repeating phrases to a spouse or a child – “I love you. Do you love me? Oh yes, I’m sure you do.” Over and over they say it. The words roll off their tongue like a formula. And yet, if you really know these people, you realize that it is all talk. They are selfish, fleshly types who only love themselves.

In the visible church we encounter people quite often who employ very similar methods of speech to convince others that they are eminently saintly. It is what I call, “holy talk.” Vocabulary that no one uses in real life – not even the holy talkers themselves. The thing is a sham. A put-on used to elevate the hypocrite above others.

Years ago, before I learned hard lessons by hard experience, I would hear such persons speaking, I would hear them pray, and I would just assume that they were sound, mature, godly Christians. That has all changed. Today when I hear someone talking holy talk in such a way that makes me uncomfortable asking them about practical, daily things (where do you work? Where did you go to school? Do you like to fish?), I step away. Because I realize that the probability is quite high that I am in the presence of evil masquerading as a son of righteousness.

Have you ever wondered how Jesus talked and conversed with the tax-gatherers and sinners when he went to their house? Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying He talked exactly like they did and kept the conversation on subjects of mere temporal life. But what I suspect He did do was speak in such a way that set him apart from the hypocrites of the day – the scribes and Pharisees. I think he showed genuine interest in a fisherman’s boat, or in the tax-gatherer’s background.

Let me close with an illustration. Years ago I was introduced to a man who was a pastor in our area. Out of a genuine motive to get to know him and show interest in his life, I asked “So, how did you come to move here?” His answer? “Well! How did YOU come to move here? By the Lord’s leading of course.” In other words, he wanted everyone to know how saintly he was, how every single move he made was “of the Lord,” and so on. I never had anything to do with that man again.

Beware of the holy-talkers. They love to be heard by men. They love to be praised by men. But the Lord does not know them.