I believe the tongue is the hardest member of the human body to control, so how do you tame the tongue?
Bridling the Tongue
The Book of James has been called one of the books of wisdom in the Bible, and in this book, James writes about the tongue. It may be one of the smallest members of the human body, but I believe it’s one of the hardest to control. I don’t mean controlling it in constructing sounds, but when we use the tongue, it can be a double-edged sword. It can heal, but it can hurt. It can bless, and it can curse. James wrote that “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless” (James 1:26). Jesus said our words reveal what’s in our heart, saying “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mark 7:20-23).
Our tongue matters a lot, particularly to God, because He knows that “With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God” (James 3:9), and “From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:9-10). One moment we speak well of someone, perhaps in their presence, but with that same tongue we can quickly gossip about that same person, so we’re instructed, don’t be “rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few” (Eccl 5:2). The fewer words that are spoken, the less chance there is for offense.
Watching the Tongue
James wrote that “we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body” (James 3:2), and all God’s people said, “Amen!” Seagoing ships are typically huge, but even “though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs” (James 3:4). In similar fashion, “So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things” (James 3:5a). With one little word, we can see “How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire” (James 3:5b)! One word can start a war. One word can cause someone to commit suicide. One word from a false witness can sentence someone to life in prison, so clearly, “the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell” (James 3:6). It is “From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:10). Should blessing and cursing come from the same mouth? “Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water” (James 3:12). We have managed to tame “every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature” (James 3:7), but “no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8). Not very flattering, but it is true nonetheless.
God will bless the one “who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend” (Psalm 15:3), but it is not easy to “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit” (Psalm 34:13). David knew this would be a struggle, and so he wrote, “I will guard my ways, that I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth with a muzzle, so long as the wicked are in my presence” (Psalm 39:1). That means David made a conscience effort to guard his tongue. One way to guard the tongue is to sing praises to God with it. The psalmist wrote, “My tongue will sing of your word, for all your commandments are right” (Psalm 119:72). Now that’s the proper use of the tongue, so a great way to guide the tongue is to bless and praise God with it. That way, you’ll be so busying blessing God and others that you won’t have time to speak with evil lips, and that might keep you “from speaking deceit.”
Our Deceitful Tongue
Having trouble controlling the tongue? Welcome to the club. I know God hates a “lying tongue” (Prov 6:17), but “The tongue of the righteous is choice silver” (Prov 10:20). Think before you speak is good advice that I don’t always follow, but if we think about the impact and meaning of our words before we speak them, we’ll have an easier time controlling the tongue. If we do not try to control the tongue, the tongue will control us. Ask God for help, and pray, “Deliver me, O Lord, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue” (Psalm 120:2). I believe He will answer that prayer. We cannot do anything without Christ (John 15:5), and anything we can do of significance must be done through Christ (Phil 4:13), but truly, the tongue can bring death, but it can also bring eternal life. One way the tongue can bring life is by introducing people to Jesus Christ, and telling them why they need the Savior. We must use our tongue to reveal the fact that Jesus Christ requires that we repent and believe in Him (Mark 1:14-15).
We must read His Word, knowing every Word of God is truth, so if we are singing praises to God; if we are busying blessing others and God; and if we are reading God’s Word and asking for His help, I believe we can at least control the tongue to a certain extent. No one can completely control the tongue, but we can strive to filter our words through our mind before we release them. The tongue will still have its moments, but at least we can think before we speak, because words matter, and words cannot be taken back once their out.
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is a writer at Christian Quotes and also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.