By: Karen Sue Bledsoe
Has anyone ever said something hurtful to you about yourself or someone you love? When that happened how did it make you feel? How did you respond to it? Sometimes those hurtful words made you cry or you just walked away saying nothing. Other times you got very angry and said something just as hurtful back, or you react with violence and strike them, or you do both. THAT is how powerful words can be.
The power of the tongue is described in the Bible as:
|Poison||Death||A fire||World of iniquity|
It also describes it as:
The Book of James tell us that the unguarded tongue is out of control and immature (James 3:2). Like a child who is out of control, the tongue can disobey, cry if someone corrects it, go silent and hold its breath if what it says doesn’t get it its way and can bring shame to its parents.
On the other hand, a tongue that is in control does not breathe words of slander or malice, it keeps its secrets, it takes sound rebuke and correction, and stays in the will of God when it is speaking. It does not cause strife among the brethren, it is not self-seeking nor does it seek to destroy others. It is in control because it is guarded, in the will of God when it is teaching and speaking and firmly grounded in God’s Word. Because we are not perfect we can see by the chart above, the bad often outweighs the good words that come out of our mouth.
God has called us to be obedient. He requires it and when we disobey we often do and say things we shouldn’t. We bring disgrace to ourselves and more importantly, to Him. We oftentimes are ruined in the sight of others. No matter how repentant you are or how often you say you were wrong or that you sinned there will be those who will not forgive or forget. Even when you have proven yourself repeatedly to them. Let it go. Continue in God’s Word and in serving Him, you will be restored, most often with more than what you had before.
Our words can bring life or death to others. (Proverbs 18:21) We often hear some people say that it doesn’t bother them when someone lies or spreads rumors about them, but cringe inside when a past sin is brought out over and over again to bring disgrace. It doesn’t matter that the sin is no longer being committed and/or how God has graciously been moving in their lives. There are many Christians who do not care how they destroy a fellow believer just to make themselves seem more holy. Many times we ourselves have done the same to someone else, but with conviction and repentance, God has forgiven and we go on serving Him, being much more careful in our actions and words.
Before you speak, think about what you are going to say. Is it going to edify or really hurt that person? If it’s something that MUST be said, then say it in private with a witness or two that will not carry it to others as gossip. And always pray and ask God the best way to approach the situation.
You can also ask yourself if what you have to say brings hope or peace with it. If only anger and malice are behind your words, then you have sinned yourself in speaking them because your heart was not true. Jesus said that what comes out of our mouths reveals our hearts (Matthew 12:34) and defiles us (Matthew 15:18). What we say can reveal where we are spiritually (James 3:12). Are you known as a gossip? As a person who never has anything nice to say about anyone? As a person who loves to cause division among the congregation? If you are, you are known as such because of what comes out of your mouth. If you tell a lie, and then ask for forgiveness for it, you have done what is right, but if you keep repeating lies then you will be known as a liar.
The power of the tongue is immense. It can soothe, comfort, heal broken hearts, mend broken relationships, and soften even the hardest heart. It can bring joy, good news and kind words. It can declare leadership, blessings, encouragement and love.
On the other hand, it can destroy a person, destroy relationships, marriages, friendships, careers, bring financial ruin, sickness and death to someone or cause someone else’s life to be destroyed. Success rises and falls with someone’s words.
Before you speak, what is your motivation for what you are about to say? Is it to share joy, gladness, good news, congratulations, blessings or just a friendly hello? Or is to mock, cause anger and malice, is it spitefulness, revenge, racism, condemnation, and curses? Jesus tells us that we will account for every careless word we say and that we will either be acquitted or condemned by them (Matthew 12:26-27); and that what we say comes out of the overflow of our hearts (Matthew 12:34). Think about that. What you say is what is so continually in your heart that it just flows out of your mouth every time it opens! If you are angry, bitter, or spiteful, it will show by the words you speak. If you are kind, gentle, and caring, it will also show by the words you speak.
James 3:1-12 teaches us that our words are taken very seriously by God. Especially those uttered by those of us who teach His Word. Because teachers are judged by a stricter discipline than those who are not, and because we are teachers it can cause us to stumble, to be less careful of the things we say when teaching. We can become so puffed up by our position that we teach the Scriptures in such a way as to keep puffing us up as a leader and we wind up becoming a False Teacher. Teachers of the Word bear a great responsibility. Many fail or cause others to fall away by their words because they did not know God’s Word. Many of these teachers take God’s Word out of context or change the meaning in order to deceive, and often do because those under their teaching are not grounded in the Scriptures and have no ability to discern false teaching.
Men have agendas. They want to be heard, become famous and make a lot of money. Men will lie, cheat, and steal to get the power they crave. This happens frequently in the church, because they chose to become “messengers” of God and share the Gospel. If they are not doing that with pure motives, they will be judged according to what they have spoken and taught. They will become known as a False Teacher and we are forbidden to have anything to do with them unless they repent and confess to Christ what it is they have said and why they said it. We have been entrusted with His people, we will be held responsible for our words when we teach them.
James also tells us that we should “bridle our tongues”. Meaning simply to be quiet until what you are going to say is truth. To bridle means to “restrain or curb”
(dictionary.com). We are to restrain and curb our tongue, keep it in control. Controlling one’s tongue shows maturity in Christ “the quality of behaving mentally and emotionally like an adult”. ( dictionary.cambridge.org)
Our tongues are likened to a ship’s rudder. Compared to the rest of the ship, the rudder is small, yet it controls the way the ship goes. Our tongues are small organs in our bodies yet it does control us and often boasts to others about its own ill-perceived wisdom, which is no wisdom at all. Like the bit in the horse’s mouth, or the rudder on a ship, our tongues are small, yet it can destroy anything twice its size or more. Like the horse whose rider controls it with a bit in his mouth, we are controlled by the one in control of us! A Christian with an unbridled tongue is more often a person who is just very religious. They do not actually belong to Christ. Sometimes they do, but most times there is no evidence of Christ in them at all.
Being religious has nothing to do with being a Christian. There are many faiths in the world with thousands upon thousands believing strongly in theirs. If it does not serve Jesus Christ and Him alone then it is religion. To serve means, to serve with Christ in control of your being. Of your being totally submissive to His will and the Word He plants in you to share. Religion serves man, not Christ. Religion is ritual upon ritual to cleanse oneself, whether it be cradling your rosary beads or on your knees facing Mecca as you pray. It’s repeated prayer, by rote, and it doesn’t go any higher than your ceiling.
Being Christian is to obey God and His Word. It supersedes religion. It is the way of life, not a life-style. It is through Christ that man gains eternal life. Nothing else can save you but the faith He gave you to believe on Him to be saved. Not mass or confession to a priest, not rosary beads, not baptism, not church attendance or tithes, or praying on your knees to a god that is not the true God. It is believing in Him so strongly that you are willing to die to live by it.
Does it make us perfect? No, not in this life, but we are to strive to be as perfect in Him as we can. We are to control our tongues and our actions and desires. All of us has strayed a little or much in our walk and some even commit sins they never dreamed they would commit! But true faith brings repentance and departure of our sins and follow faithfully His Word and live by it each day. And when you stumble, even fall, His grace is big enough to pick you up, wash you clean again and set you on the path following Him. There may be consequences because of your sins in this life, but Christ paid for our sins, for now and for eternity. No religion can offer you that.
There are so many verses in the Bible about controlling our tongues and the problems that evolve when we don’t. Gossip, slander, vilification, hatred, racism, agendas, judgments, and decrees are declared with the tongue. It is a fire that cannot be controlled by those who have these things in their hearts. It consumes the body and one day the fire wrought by it will consume the soul. It is an important subject, so important that Scripture covers it thoroughly. Kingdoms and nations have risen and fallen by the power of the tongue. Life and death are decided in courtrooms and throne-rooms where the decree bounces off the castle walls because the execution has already been carried out. Suicide is committed often-times by words so hurtful and hateful the hearer had no hope and chooses to take his life. Think about that. Will your words carry the gift of eternal life to those who hear you, will you take to them the Gospel of Christ or shun them, and by your words, kill them as soon as they come out of your mouth, destroying any hope of anything else in life for them, resulting in their suicide. I’ve read many an article of a young person who was bullied taking their lives because the poison being spewed at them on a daily basis was more than they could bear.
It’s so easy to let our tongues get the better of us. Not one of us is innocent of idle talk and gossip. Many of us learn the hard way to just shut our mouths and keep them shut until we have something better to say. Yes, correction and judgments are spoken to those who need corrected and those who need rebuked. False teachers and prophets should be revealed and exposed. That is in the Scriptures and should carried out in accordance to His Holy Word.
Remember grace. It is only by the Grace of God that He made a way for us to be saved through Christ’s death and resurrection. Remember the words of Mary to the disciples when she found the stone rolled away? Remember on the Day of Pentecost the disciples speaking and preaching the Gospel in tongues to the nations that were there? We can testify. We can share. All with the power of our tongues. Use it for good, not evil. Even in rebuking or correcting someone. To do so is to love them so they will not be judged without repentance.
Use your tongue to spread the Gospel faithfully, the Words He spoke, and carry them to others bringing to them life, peace, not hurt, love and not hate. Remember the tongue has the power of life and death. Be careful which one works through you.
©2016 Karen Bledsoe
Some verses and passages about the tongue.
Psalm_51:14 Save me from the guilt of bloodshed, God, the God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing of Your righteousness.
Proverbs_15:2- The tongue of the wise makes knowledge attractive, but the mouth of fools blurts out foolishnes
Acts_2:26 Therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced. Moreover, my flesh will rest in hope
Words have power—Matthew 8:16; 8:8
Jesus’ Words dwell or abide in those of us who are His—John 8:31; 15:7;
Can bring death and life—Proverbs 18:21
We will give account for every careless word—Mathew 12:36-37
Our words reveal our heart—Matthew 15:18; 12:34
Where we are spiritually determines in the evidence of our tongues—James 3:1-12
The mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart—Luke 6:45
The Power of the Tongue—James 1-12
All Scripture taken from the HCSB. (Holman Christian Standard Bible)