But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give an account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words, you will be condemned. (Matthew 12:36-37)
“The Ultimate Guide to Taming Your Tongue,” is divided into five categories. 1) “Warning,” The Untamable Tongue. 2) Biblical Advice about the Tongue. 3) Commandments from God concerning the Tongue. 4) God’s judgment Concerning the Tongue. And.. 5) Praying about Your Tongue.
Throughout all my Christian years, I’ve heard many pastors explain how even as Christians we sometimes will struggle with a particular sin for years or even all of our life. I guess it’s kind of like a thorn in the flesh. Taming the tongue is probably the hardest issue I struggle with. And that’s why I decided to write this post in hopes that it will help others who struggle with this issue as well. Remember, iron sharpens iron. Funny thing is, I don’t know why, but I have no problem at all with my tongue when I’m around other people. However, when I’m by myself is when I struggle with my tongue. Or when I’m at home with my wife and then she has to hear it. The research alone for this topic has helped me tremendously.
When I think of the words “The Ultimate Guide,” I picture a guide that would prevent me from doing all the research myself on a particular subject, therefore having everything at my reach in one place. I realize that the Bible is the one place I can find almost everything, however, with 66 books and over 1500 pages it could take some time to find all the Scriptures concerning a particular sin one might be struggling with in a time of need during our busy schedules. I also picture a guide that would not only answer my questions on a particular subject but also encourage me to implement what I’ve read for the betterment of my life. This is what you will find in this post. Having the ultimate guide anytime I need it is also an easy way for me to memorize the Scriptures I need to help me overcome this struggle. Psalm 119:11 says “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.”
1) “Warning,” The Untamable Tongue.
Being able to tame our tongue is so important to God that almost an entire chapter is devoted to it in the Bible. If you were only given one place to turn in the Bible to learn about the importance of taming your tongue and what God feels about it then look no further than James chapter 3. It’s shocking to realize that our tongues are compared to the small rudder that controls a large ship, or that our tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity, an unruly evil full of deadly poison and that it defiles our whole body. “With it, we bless our God and Father, and with it, we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God.” It even goes as far as to say that “it sets on fire the course of nature.” These are very powerful “God-breathed” words coming from the Scriptures.
Controlling our tongue is not always an easy thing to do. Even some of the great men of the Bible have had their challenges with this issue as well. In Psalm 106:33 Moses spoke rashly with his lips. Job darkened counsel by his “words without knowledge” in Job 38:2. Even the apostle Peter in Matthew 16:23 offended Jesus Himself with his foolish words that drew upon him the rebuke “Get behind Me, Satan!” Other than quieting someone by means of fear, harsh or angry words will never accomplish anything in a positive manner. James 1:19-20 says “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” The main expression of our personality is our tongue, which usually calls forth an immediate reaction of one kind or another.
The power of the tongue has ruined many families, divided many churches, and sent unnumbered millions to despair and ruin. Judging by the general tone of James chapter 3, there must’ve been many worldly-minded, presumptuous, and argumentative men who couldn’t control their temper, making themselves out to be as leaders and teachers. James was not only the oldest brother of Jesus but he was also recognized as the leading overseer of the Judean church (Acts 12:17 & Galatians 1:19). Addressed to the Christian Jews, the epistle of James was written, probably, about A.D. 60 near the close of James’s life after being the pastor of the Judean church for 30 years.
2) Biblical Advice about the Tongue.
“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” (James 3:2).
For great general biblical advice concerning taming the tongue, we need not travel further than the book of Proverbs. It is a book of instruction written to promote wisdom and understanding. God’s basic instructions on how He wants men to live so that there is no excuse for our missing the mark. According to “Halley’s Bible Handbook,” the book of Proverbs has been called one of the “Best Guide Books to Success that a young man can follow.” I’ve noted 4 Scriptures in the book of Proverbs concerning the tongue. First, we have Proverbs 15:4 which says “A wholesome tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.” This reminds me of the scripture in Matthew chapter 12 where it says “For by your words you will be justified,” meaning when we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord, we will be saved (Romans 10: 9), and all of our sins will be forgiven and washed away. Justified really translates out to mean, just if I’d never sinned. It also reminds me of James chapter 3 where it talks about how we use our tongue to bless our God and father, yet also to curse men who were made in the image of God.
Then we have Proverbs 17: 28 which says “Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; When he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive.” This is my favorite one. It reminds me of Luke 6:32-34 which says ““But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back.” So if God considers even a fool to be wise for holding his tongue, then how much more should we as Christians be striving to hold ours.
Then we have Proverbs 18:21 which says “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit. When I read the part that says “ and those who love it will eat its fruit,” I automatically think of Galatians 6:7-8 which says “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.”
And finally, we have Proverbs 21: 23 which says “Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles.” More sound advice from not only the king of Israel but next to Jesus himself, the smartest and wisest man who ever lived. I don’t know about everyone else, but when I read the Proverbs, each one seems to remind me of another scripture in the Bible. I guess my brain attempts to go into “Scripture interprets Scripture” mode. Maybe when you read these 4 Scriptures in the book of Proverbs they will remind you of some completely different verses in the Bible.
3) Commandments from God concerning the Tongue.
I found 5 places in the Bible where God gives us commands concerning the tongue.
In Ephesians 4:29 Paul explains how we Christians need to strive harder to live differently than we did in our pre-salvation days. Corrupt speech is associated with those who do not know the Lord. Paul provides two different guidelines on how we should speak instead of using corrupting or negative talk. First, we are to speak about meaningful things in a beneficial way. Second, we are to speak in a way that is appropriate to the situation we are in at the time. Because what some people might accept, others might find unkind or completely rude. Our goal is to show people grace by helping them with our words and not prioritizing our own feelings. “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth” goes along with Matthew 12:36 which holds us accountable for every word we say. In Colossians 4:6 Paul uses the metaphor of salt, being it was a valuable treasure in those days for its ability to preserve and flavor food. As Christians, our speech should be flavored differently than nonbelievers and preserving the message of Christ.
4) God’s Judgment concerning the Tongue.
Why do you boast in evil, O mighty man? The goodness of God endures continually. Your tongue devises destruction, like a sharp razor, working deceitfully. You love evil more than good, lying rather than speaking righteousness. Selah. You love all devouring words, you deceitful tongue. God shall likewise destroy you forever; He shall take you away, and take you out of your dwelling place, and uproot you from the land of the living. Selah Psalm 52:1-5
Psalm 52 is a contemplation of David about Doeg the Edomite. Doeg the Edomite was essentially king Saul’s executioner, who one day was ordered to execute 85 priests and others in the city of Nob who were untrained in battle and had never touched a sword. This was a man who boasted in himself and enjoyed the evil deeds he committed. Some people love to do evil things and some people love to lie. Doeg the Edomite fulfilled both aspects. He loved the destruction his devouring words brought.
And what’s the response from heaven? “God shall likewise destroy you forever; He shall take you away, and pluck you out of your dwelling place, and uproot you from the land of the living. Seleh”
Uproot you? Remember, bad fruit can bring God’s curse upon the tree, where it will not just wither and die, but it shall be plucked up by the roots, implying that such a sinner shall suffer a violent death. It’s bad when we as Christians are unable to tame our tongue, but it’s even worse to enjoy it and boast in. This is where the judgment of God will come.
Considering my statement in the paragraph at the top of this page about taming the tongue being one of the hardest issues I struggle with, this Scripture in James is really an eye-opener for me. In some translations the word “useless” is replaced by the word “worthless” which translates out to mean “Mataios” in the Strong’s concordance (3152), meaning groundless, invalid, vain, empty, devoid of force, nonproductive, useless, dead, fruitless, aimless, and of no real or lasting value. According to Thomas Nelson’s commentary, Mataios emphasizes aimlessness or the leading to no object or end and thus is used to describe false gods or idols in contrast to the true God. Our foolish neglect to tame our tongue results in an empty profession that’s unprofitable to us and others. And not withholding our tongue is a disgrace to God and the doctrines of Christ. Taming the tongue is a task that is so difficult that anyone who has the ability to accomplish it has the ability to accomplish anything. This type of self-control is a part of the fruit of the spirit spoke about in Galatians 5:23
5) Praying about Your Tongue.
For those of us who struggle with taming our tongues, prayer should be our first plan of attack. Although we as Christians should know the importance of prayer, it’s good to be reminded by opening up God’s word. Prayer is our access to God. We have intimacy with Him as His chosen people, His children. Praying regularly gives us the opportunity to receive all that God has for us. Prayer is worship. There’s an interesting truth I read in a Daily Bread booklet that stated, “In worship, as the old word worth-ship implies, we declare what we value the most. It is one of the best ways in the world to love God. Prayer is the highest expression of our dependence on God.”
Philippians 4:6 tells us “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” Prayer by its nature is a form of requesting, not insisting. God doesn’t like it when we try to make demands or deals with Him. When we pray to God, it’s like we are having a polite conversation with a friend, and friends don’t make demands, they ask and wait patiently. In His time He is able to do far more than anything we can imagine.
Now, back to “Praying about Your Tongue.” The psalmist David gives us some great examples of this. Psalm 141:3-4 says “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips. Do not incline my heart to any evil thing, to practice wicked works with men who work iniquity; and do not let me eat of their delicacies.” Also, in Psalm 39:1 David prays “I said, I will guard my ways, lest I sin with my tongue; I will restrain my mouth with a muzzle, while the wicked are before me.” And finally, Psalm 19:14, the one we’ve all heard in a very popular worship song. “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.”
I’m convinced that if husbands and wives would consistently apply these Scriptures to their lives, we would rarely see divorce. If parents practice these Scriptures toward their children, we would see fewer children from Christian homes rebel against their parents. And if we as Christians would apply them towards one another in the church, we would see a decrease in churches splitting up over personality conflicts or minor doctrinal issues. In short, continuously applying these Scriptures would bring about a radical change in all of our relationships.