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Being Careful With Our Tongue

By Kojo Zilevu

When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise (Proverbs 10:19-20). 

The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things (Proverbs 15:28). 

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear (Eph 4:29). 

If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless (James 1:26).

It is not the eloquence of speech or our knowledge and ability to explain scripture that prove our spirituality, but how much we have allowed the Holy Spirit to guide and control our tongue. A perfect man is one who does not stumble in what he says (James 3:2).  Our speech tells us our own heart condition for out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45). Doctors often check the tongue because it can indicate an underlying health condition. So also, our tongue reveals the condition of our hearts every day. This is one way by which God can show us how pure our hearts are, so we don’t deceive ourselves. If we are honest enough to acknowledge our fault in this area, Jesus can save us. But if we ignore His pleadings, we will deceive our own heart and die spiritually even though we may know the bible so well.

The tongue is likened to a fire because of its potential to boast great things (James 3:5-6). A tiny spark can set a whole forest on fire; and once the forest is on fire it is extremely difficult to put out. In the same way if we are not careful with our speech, it can destroy the very work of God in our lives and in the church. Our tongue can either be on fire for the Lord if controlled or on fire for the devil if left uncontrolled. The Holy Spirit warns us that those who don’t control their tongue will be judged and teachers will be judged by a stricter standard (James 3:1-2).

Our tone carries a weight, which often makes a bigger impact than our words. A man with bad breath can say the correct things, but his breath prevents people from listening to him. We ourselves may not know it, but the spiritual aroma of our words can put others off even though we may be saying the right things. For example, however much a person tries to conceal anger or pride in his heart, it will manifest itself when he opens his mouth. Therefore, it is good to seek for our hearts to be strengthen with grace (Heb 13:9) so our speech will always be with grace (Col 4:6), whether in public or private. God has a unique word for every situation and circumstance. He has a response to those who accuse us unjustly (Mark 15:3-5, Mark 14:61), for an argumentative person (Mark 8:11-13, 12:17), those who lead others astray (Matt 23), those who are caught in sin (John 8:11, Gal 6:1) and so on. The uniqueness of each situation we face demands that we be quick to hear God for an appropriate response.

It is amazing and encouraging that Jesus Himself lived without ever uttering an unwholesome word. Jesus lived by (Ephesians 4:29) for every New Testament command given to us was true in Him first. He always had a word from God for people that was meant exactly for them. God used his tongue to feed many (Pro 10:21); sometimes it was words they liked to hear (Luke 4:22) and sometimes they didn’t like to hear the strong words He spoke (Luke 4:28-30). He relied on God’s wisdom in His speech and said only what God wanted Him to say (John 12:49, 14:10). If we live by this principle and depend on God, then He can also use our tongue to bless many. We can be His mouthpiece in the church and outside the church if we are careful with our tongue in private (1 Cor 14:3-4, Jeremiah 15:19). On the other hand, if we are careless with our speech, just uttering whatever words come to our mind, then it will be devil’s workshop for evil and we will surely give an account for it on judgment day (Matt 12:36).

May the Lord constantly remind and help us keep your tongue pure so that He may feed many with it.

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