The Tongue

God has blessed mankind with the ability to talk.  Animals have the ability to make noises and communicate with one another, but people are unique in their ability to express themselves in complex languages. 

While God has blessed us with the ability to speak, what comes out of our mouths is not always good.  James 3:2 “For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.”  Unless you are a perfect person, there are times that you say things that you should not say.   You may say something unkind, hurtful, or even hateful.  You may boast about how good you are.  You may say something that isn’t true.  You may seek to deceive others with your words.  You may tell gossip to your neighbor that you should not tell.  You may grumble or complain.  There are many ways that you can stumble in word.   James 3:3-5 “Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body.  Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things.  See how great a forest a little fire kindles!”  Even though the tongue is a small member in the body, it causes lots of problems.  James 3:6-8 “And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.  For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind.  But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.”  The tongue is likened to fire or poison with the harm that it can do.  James 3:9-12 “With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God.  Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.  Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening?  Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.”  Sometimes the tongue says good, loving things – even praise of God.  Other times the tongue says evil, hurtful things.  There should not be both good and bad things coming from your mouth.

James 1:26 “If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless.”  In other words, if one thinks he is a pious person and worships God but he doesn’t control his tongue, he deceives himself and is not truly worshipping God.  If you want good things to happen in your life and have God listen to your prayers, you must learn to control your tongue.  1 Peter 3:10-12 “For “He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit. Let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.  For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

Jesus gave the following instruction.  Matthew 12:33-35 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit.  Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.”  The heart is the source of our words.  If our hearts are good, we will be careful to only speak good things.  But if there is evilness in our hearts, what we say will demonstrate the problem of our hearts.  Jesus continued in Matthew 12:36 “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.  For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”  God is interested in the character of our hearts.  On the day of judgment we will be judged by the things that we have said because our words demonstrate the nature of our hearts.

Here are some scriptures that tell what should and should not come out of our mouths.  Ephesians 4:29 “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.”  Ephesians 5:4 “Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.” James 4:16 “But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.” Romans 12:14 “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” Proverbs 15:1-2 “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.  The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, but the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness.” Matthew 5:34-37 “But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.  Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black.  But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.”  Colossians 4:5-6 “Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time.  Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” Psalms 120:2 “Deliver my soul, O Lord, from lying lips and from a deceitful tongue.”

My encouragement to you is to change your heart to change your words.  Be careful what you say.  Perhaps your prayer can be that of the psalmist in Psalms 141:3 “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.”