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Insight #331 – “Watch Your Mouth”

Did your mother have to tell you to control your tongue? Our brother James said it is very difficult. Our Lord Jesus said it is an issue with eternal consequences.

It’s Hard

Our tongue is hanging loose on one end and often not well connected on the other. James warned, “Nobody can tame the tongue.” We tame everything, he says, except the tongue. “Anyone who doesn’t stumble in word is a perfect person, able to bridle the whole body also.” “Bridle.” That means to restrain, curb, control – the whole body, including the tongue. That’s a tall order. (See James 3:1-12.)

Keep in mind that words are written as well as spoken. Therefore, all that the Bible says about our tongue and mouth applies just as much to words produced with pen, press, and keyboard.

“The tongue is also a little member, and boasts great things… It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men who are made in the image of God.” Makes me think of singing praises to God in church, and then on the drive home, when someone cuts in front of us, spouting out abusive phrases.

Beware of using “nobody can tame” as an excuse. Rather take it as a “heads up.” It is a call to spiritual warfare. Paul told us, “If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Rom. 8:13). You can’t control your tongue. But you and the Holy Spirit can!

Eternity in the Balance

Our Savior and Judge said, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks… I tell you that every idle word that men speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matt. 12:34-37).

“Every idle word.” Just what does that mean? Not one useless word? No chitchat? No jokes? Only very, very necessary talk? To me it makes more sense that Jesus was saying that we will be judged – not just by our well-prepared speeches – but by the words that idly come out of our mouth. We sometimes excuse our words by saying, “Oh, I didn’t mean that.” But Jesus had just said, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” That “idle” word came from somewhere deep inside.

There’s no getting around the seriousness of what our tongues (and fingers on the keyboard) pour forth. Let’s allow Solomon in Proverbs to stir our thinking.

Talking (keyboarding) too much:
“He who restrains his lips does wisely” (10:19).
“A man of understanding holds his peace” (11:12).
“He who guards his mouth guards his soul.
   One who opens wide his lips comes to ruin” (13:3).
“He who spares his words has knowledge…
   Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is counted wise” (17:27-28).
“Do you see a man who is hasty in his words?
   There is more hope for a fool than for him” (29:20).

Not listening:
“He who answers before he hears,
   that is folly and shame to him” (18:13).

Bad-mouthing (canceling) others:
“He who utters a slander is a fool” (10:18).
“A harsh word stirs up anger” (15:1).
“He who repeats a matter separates best friends” (17:9).
“Without gossip, a quarrel dies down” (26:20).
“Don’t betray the confidence of another” (25:9).

“The Lord hates… a lying tongue” (6:16-17).
“A lying tongue hates those it hurts;
  and a flattering mouth works ruin” (26:28).

“Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth;
   a stranger, and not your own lips” (27:2).

Good word at wrong time:
“He who blesses his neighbor with a loud voice early in the
  morning, it will be taken as a curse by him” (27:14).

That wasn’t funny:
“Like a madman who shoots torches, arrows, and death,
  is the man who deceives his neighbor and says,
  ‘Am I not joking?'” (26:18-19).

Correcting with Love:
“Better is open rebuke than hidden love.
  The wounds of a friend are faithful” (27:5,6).
“One who rebukes a man will afterward find more favor
  than one who flatters with the tongue” (28:23).

Kind Words:
“The tongue of the wise heals” (12:18).
“A gentle answer turns away wrath” (15:1).
“A gentle tongue is a tree of life” (15:4).
“Pleasant words are a honeycomb,
  sweet to the soul, and health to the bones” (16:24).

Imparting Wisdom:
“He who is wise wins souls” (11:30).
“The tongue of the wise commends knowledge” (15:2).
“She opens her mouth with wisdom.
  Kind instruction is on her tongue” (31:26).

Watch Your Mouth

What we say via tongue and keyboard has eternal consequences: “for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Has your tongue been baptized? Do you have a bridle on your tongue? Are you cooperating with the Holy Spirit to control your mouth? “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” What does my mouth reveal about what is deep down inside of me? May God help us all to control that little member and to use it as a blessing to those around us.