Thermometer of the Heart



What factors fight against our grace-motivated effort to tame our tongues and use grace-filled speech during our conversations?


  • An escalation of pain, fatigue, or depression can result in a greater vulnerability to complain or display an edgy tone of voice even around those we love. We might catch ourselves rationalizing sins of the tongue due to the affliction we’re experiencing, as if we deserve a reprieve from God’s standards to compensate for our suffering.
  • As COVID-19 forces more of us to work at home, the extra time around loved ones can strain relationships and increase our impatience and anxiety about job security and finances.


Have either of these made it more difficult for your words to be grace-filled? Whether grace-filled or not, our words act like a thermometer of the heart.




I wrote the devotional and poem that follow many years ago, but the Biblical perspective of grace-filled speech they convey has never been timelier. When a young child acts cranky or listless, we might check them for a fever. If their temperature is much above 98.6 degrees, we know there’s an infection of some sort that needs medical attention. No matter why you visit the doctor’s office, a nurse usually takes your temperature, because it’s a vital sign of physical health. A reading above the norm signals trouble somewhere in the body.




Similarly, the tongue is a vital sign of spiritual health. Our speech patterns provide a good indicator of the condition of our hearts. They act as a thermometer of the heart. The nature of our conversations shows whether or not we have an infection of the heart that needs immediate attention. Here’s how Jesus put it: “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45, emphasis mine.


This truth, combined with the Holy Spirit’s conviction over something I had said, inspired my poem. Truly our words act a a thermometer of the heart. May we be tuned to God’s word and with His help may our words be grace-filled and glorify Him.




My words aren’t always soft, or sweet.
I’ve said things labeled indiscreet. When
I’m not Spirit-filled I’m prone to couch
my words in toxic tone.

With feelings worn upon my sleeve
come words I wish I could retrieve. I
regret times that I’ve been caught
speaking without engaging thought.

I must not underestimate how
deeply words can penetrate.
For everything a person hears goes to
the heart, not just the ears.

Let my words give comfort and grace and
put a smile upon the face
of all who hear the things I say; let
my words help, not hurt, I pray.

Yes, I must guard my wayward heart, for
that is where the wrong words start. The
problem is not with my speech: It’s putting
God far out of reach.

It’s prayerlessness. I can’t afford to
rely on self and not the Lord. The
tongue is far too wild to tame unless
God’s glory is my aim.


Dr. Terry Powell

Dr. Terry Powell

Author and Professor

Terry is a Faculty Emeritus and an adjunct professor in Church Ministries at Columbia International University. He and his wife, Dolly, have been married for 50 years and share two sons, a daughter-in-law, and a grandson. Terry writes about faith and depression at Penetrating the Darkness. Oh God, I’m Dying! How God Redeems Pain for Our Good and His Glory tells of God's sustaining grace in the life of co-author Dr. Mark Smith, who is an effective Christian university president despite suffering daily pain from a near-fatal accident.

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