One day when I was at a Christian meeting attempting to share something that I was feeling tender, fragile and somewhat vulnerable about, another person responded to me in a manner that felt very cutting, judgemental and harsh. I was left hurting and stunned!
Later, at home, as I reflected upon the “tongue-lashing” that I’d received that day I was led to considering the power of the tongue. As is the Lord’s way, He led me to considering my own manner of speech with other people. I have learnt that we cannot control how others treat us but we can always control how we treat others. So that is always the area to work on with prayer when we are slighted and wronged in any way.
Even more recently I have realised how easily I too can sometimes fall for the worldly pressures to join in with others at work, for instance; the pressures to conform, to fit in, to go along with them can feel strong upon us all at times. There can be worldly jesting occurring around us that we mostly ignore and distance ourselves from; but just occasionally perhaps their sarcasm and worldly banter draws us in and our old nature kicks in and we respond in kind, against our better judgement, and no doubt regret doing so later on. But sadly, words once spoken, are not deletable or recallable. They are of course forgivable and that is the route to take, certainly with the Lord, but sometimes even with the people whom we have spoken hastily towards.
So How can we tame our tongues?
The letter of James has much to say upon this matter. Ultimately we must submit every part of ourselves to God, humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord, draw near to God often and resist the devil. (James 4:7-10)
I felt the Lord impress deeply upon me some years ago the following passage of scripture from this letter, where it says:
“Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4)
So we need to take heed of this double warning. I think that succumbing to the pressures to “fit in with the world” when you are the only Christian in the workplace, family or wherever you mix with a group of people, could be part of this wanting to be “friends with the world”. So this is something to pray about and keep a close check upon ourselves.
In the letter of James he compares our tongue to a bit in a horse’s mouth used to direct the animal’s direction of movement and also to the rudder of a ship; again used to turn the vessel towards the desired destination. Our little tongue is then likened to the steering mechanism for our lives direction. This is what James then has to say about the use of our tongues, when it goes astray.
“Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! 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. 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.” (James 3:5-10)
Earlier in this same letter James also said:
“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.” James 1:26
These are strong words of warning regards the wrong usage of our tongue that we must all take to heart.
Likewise we can turn to the book of Proverbs for gaining more insight into the use of words, both from the point of view of the wise as opposed to the foolish.
“A wholesome tongue is a tree of life,
But perverseness in it breaks the spirit.” Proverbs 15:4
So we have the contrast here, as in many Proverbs. We can use our tongues and thus our speech, to do so much good in the world or we can use it to be “a friend of the world” and thus an enemy of God and cause harm. This is a moment by moment decision, but we know that as we turn our hearts and lives more and more over to the Lord, then we are more likely to speak from His heart too. Jesus taught us this very important fact when he said:
“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45
As is my way, I decided to write a poem about this matter. So here it is for you – my thoughts on “taming the tongue.”
Taming The Tongue
Oh that I could please the Lord more often with my tongue.
Oh that I could listen more, say less things that were wrong.
Oh that I had self-control, more thought before I spoke.
Oh that I could see the hurt caused by my thoughtless joke.
Oh that I loved others more, and hope to see good days.
Oh from evil and deceit prevent my tongue always.
Oh to rein my tongue from boasts, a bridle I’d attach.
Oh to make my tongue behave, I’d like to fix a catch.
Then surely I would listen more, I’d take heed of others need.
Then surely I’d have less to say, would love more in word and deed.
Then surely I would understand more of my brother’s pain.
Then surely as I sought to help, both of us would gain.
Then surely this would produce the righteousness of the Lord;
As swift to hear and slow to speak He would direct my sword.
Then surely as I chatter less He will cause me to perceive,
Exactly what is being said, as God’s direction I’d receive.
“Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14
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