Medical advances allow us to look inside the human body but there are things we can’t see: we can look at the heart but we can’t see the soul or spirit; we can look at the throat but can’t see the voice; we can look at the brain but can’t see the mind with its thoughts; we can look at the tongue but can’t see intentions or words. Medical science has made great gains in keeping our bodies going; glasses for diminished vision, dentures for bad teeth, aids for hearing problems, transplants for failed organs, and replacements for worn-out joints.
But the tongue! A member of the body that never gets stiff or tired out; we never need to put a splint on it to fix it up; it cannot be enhanced, transplanted, or replaced with an artificial one. And the tongue gets us in all kinds of trouble. We say something without thinking and we can’t take the words back. Generally speaking, we let our tongues run wild causing havoc every place we take them.
Growing up, when my tongue got me into trouble with Mom, (lying or talking back) the grainy Lava soap came out, (or should I say went in) my mouth. Then masking tape OVER my mouth so I couldn’t spit it out! And then I had to stand in the corner for a decent amount of time (aka, until I “had” to swallow the soap) and she would remove the tape, expecting an apology for being naughty. Some people today might think this punishment was extreme but hey… it accomplished its’ purpose and I got the message loud and clear…be careful with my words. And so, I’m thankful for the discipline!
Most people know the damage we can do with words but still seem to think we can say what we want, when and to whom we want and if that means we need to apologize or explain it away later, we will. Unfortunately by then, the words have penetrated deep within like a sword or arrow causing hurt, anger, or worse. It is pretty natural for us to say anything we want without thought to the consequences, including complaining, gossiping, slandering, lying, backbiting, grumbling, exaggerating, and criticizing.
In the Bible in the book of James, the tongue is described as small but boastful; like a rudder on a ship or bit in a horses’ mouth, (small but turns the whole body) a fire, a world of iniquity, untamable, and a restless evil full of deadly poison. It is used to bless God and curse men which simply shouldn’t happen! In fact, God tells us this is as unnatural as fresh and bitter water coming from the same spring, olives coming from a fig tree, or figs from a grapevine. Blessing and cursing simply should not come from the same source!
We can try to stop speaking negatively but it won’t happen! That’s because we have to change our hearts first. Our words originate in the heart so if we take care of what goes in our hearts that’s what will come out our mouths. Matthew 12:34-35 “… For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.” The heart engineers what we’re going to say and our tongues “showcase” what’s in our hearts, literally showing off what’s inside.
There are a few things God has told us to do to make sure we bless Him and stop cursing men with our tongues. If you ever have a problem with your tongue, with what you say or how you say it, try these out!
1. Don’t be too quick with words. Proverbs 29:20 “Do you see a man hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” There is always a “space of time” between something happening and our response. All we have to do is widen the space – give it some time before we talk so we can choose our words wisely. Expand the space and listen for God’s voice!
Widening the space of time helps us to walk away from gossipy conversations; not retaliate when verbally attacked; praise instead of complain; give thanks instead of grumble; let God defend us instead of being defensive; tell the truth instead of lie or fudge the truth. Basically, put your tongue on a “time out” so God can steer your speech in the right direction when you time in again!
2. Put a guard or muzzle on our mouths. Psalm 39:1 “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.” Muzzling seems extreme but extreme is necessary when it comes to this little unruly member full of deadly poison. We can’t let our tongues have their way or deny its power, going through life thinking we can say what we want, when, how, where, and to whomever we want. Put a muzzle on it!
3. Let our words be few. Proverbs 10:19 “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.” It’s simple; talking too much produces sin. One pastor suggests limiting our casual conversation with Christian friends to only about 10-15 minutes a day. He says without a plan or purpose for conversation we undoubtedly we turn to talking ABOUT people (called gossip and slander), OR we complain, grumble and then rationalize it all! Talking too much leads to saying something wrong. This principle applies to our conversation with God too. Ecclesiastes 5:2 “Do not be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, and you on earth; therefore let your words be few.”
4. Say what you mean and mean what you say, no more, no less. Jesus said in Matthew 5:37 “But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes, and your ‘No’, ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” Jesus’ words speak for themselves!
5. Stop complaining and grumbling! 1 Corinthians 10:10 “Nor let us complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer.” James 5:9 “Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door.”
Being destroyed and condemned are pretty serious consequences for complaining and grumbling, yet they seem so integrally woven into life, we don’t even hear ourselves do it anymore. If we don’t have jobs, we complain about our need. If people don’t meet our needs, we complain they don’t care about us. If we do have jobs, we complain our employers expect too much of us, work us too hard, aren’t fair, or don’t pay us enough. We complain about our health, our spouses, our neighbors, our government, our kids, our school, our church, our pastors, well… we complain about most everything because after all, life is all about us right? Wrong! If we complain we aren’t considering what God hears or the effect we have on others because truth be told, complaining brings everybody down!
A father came home after a hard day at work. Sitting down with the family at the supper table, he gave thanks to God for the food before them and for His goodness and mercy! As they began to eat, he complained the food was lukewarm and tasteless. He asked his wife what she did to ruin the meal. He complained about his boss who expected too much from him and grumbled about the customers being nasty and unappreciative of his work. His young daughter interrupted him saying, “Daddy, do you think God heard your prayer before we started eating?” He said, “Of course dear! God hears everything.” “So he hears everything we say whether we pray it or say it?” Not knowing where she was going with this he agreed with her that yes, God hears them whether they pray or say. She continued, “Did you really mean what you prayed Daddy”? Her father replied, “Of course honey. I wouldn’t have prayed it if I didn’t mean it.” She said, “Did you really mean what you said about our food, mommy, and your job too?” This made the father hesitate without answering. So the little girl finished. “I was just wondering if God believes what you prayed or if He believes what you said.”
Saying a prayer of thanksgiving means nothing to God if we follow it up with complaining! FIND a reason to give thanks in all circumstances instead of complaining. Matthew Henry, who wrote a commentary on every book of the Bible, was once robbed. The thieves took everything of value he had. Later that evening he wrote in his diary these words, “I am thankful during these years I have never been robbed before. Also, even though they took my money, they did not take my life. Although they took all I had, it was not much. Finally, I am grateful it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.” Matthew found several reasons to give thanks instead of complaining. Can we?
6.Stop gossiping! Proverbs 18:8 “The words of a gossip are the choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost part.” Proverbs 20:19 “A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much.”
People must not think gossip is all that bad or else we think talking about people really isn’t gossip. But it is and it burns deep within our hearts, deadening us to sin and leading us further from the heart of God. We can just stop gossiping and let our hearts burn with love and devotion for Jesus – then our speech will burn with love and adoration FOR Him instead of talking about others!
Six simple remedies to make sure we use our tongues for blessing and not cursing. Try them! You might like them – But for sure – others around you will!