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Taming the tongue is an important theme in scripture. With our tongues, we can speak to build others up or we can speak to tear them down. We can speak truth, or we can speak lies. Occasionally we say the wrong thing, even without meaning to or, we simply fail to say the right thing.
The childhood adage “Sticks and stones may break my bones…” but words can be powerful weapons that can motivate or destroy someone.
The Bible is filled with warnings about the power of our tongue. It can be both a blessing and curse because it holds great potential, but we must use wisdom in handling this small part of us wisely!
James warns us of the potential evil influence of the tongue.
When we speak without thinking, it can feel as if our mouths aren’t really under control. Sometimes the words come out before you decide whether or not they should be said-and when this happens there’s no way to take them back! This is just one example of the importance of taming the tongue.
We all slip up, but as Christians we should always be mindful of the words coming out our mouths. Even if it’s unintentional – because they represent Jesus Christ and are used to transform others’ lives!
James’ epistle is a book about living as Christ, and in chapter three he spends twelve verses teaching on taming the tongue.
Let’s break this down a bit:
What We Say is Important in Taming Your Tongue
Words have a serious impact on other people. They can follow them their whole lives, penetrate deep into the heart and corrupt senses of self-worth with just one word. Everyone is created in God’s image — unimaginable worth yet hurtful language devalues the receiver. When we fail to practice taming the tongue that hurt can carry someone through a lifetime.
The first two images that James presents in this passage do not portray the tongue as inherently bad. A bit can steer a horse towards one direction or another, just like how our own words and actions shape us accordingly for good or ill- so long as we’re mindful of their power over ourselves
A ship’s rudder also has great potential; it steering abilities depend entirely upon what you want to do with them! The same goes for every tool at your disposal, especially the tongue, even using texting, social media, or email! if used correctly (i.e. responsibly), then each may serve to build up, rather than tear down.
The third image illustrates how volatile the tongue can be.
When we speak, our words can spread beyond our control and leave us powerless to stop the consequences or undo the damage. A completely unfounded rumor might just ruin a person’s reputation even if it is proven false later on; speaking evil brings upon oneself more shame than joy because there are no redeeming qualities in doing so. In regards to taming the tongue, we should always avoid sharing rumors or gossip.
And when we speak evil, we defile ourselves.
James makes it abundantly clear: our words have power. And that’s why it’s so important for Christians to learn to control our tongues.
Keep Your Thoughts in Line, but Only God Can Tame the Tongue
Your tongue may have eight muscles that control the way it moves and what sounds it makes. It helps you to form words, but no matter how hard you try to control the tongue you will never have complete control of the words that it creates or utters. Taming the tongue requires the Holy Spirit.
Jesus shared about how if we want to keep from sinning according to God’s Law, we need to keep our thoughts in line, as well, not just our actions. His point isn’t to give us more rules that we need to follow. His point is that we can’t overcome sin by our own power. We need Him. We need God. And that goes for hoping to tame the tongue, as well.
God is the only one who can keep our tongues in check. We need to continually submit ourselves to God and hand him the reins. Taming the tongue comes only from Him.
Our Tongues Should be Used for Good
We are called to be watchful and unmovable against the schemes of darkness, but if we let sin seep through into our words—the hate speech or lies talked about by someone else- then it will only get worse. Sin is like a cancer that needs constant monitoring; when left unchecked for too long it can cause irreversible damage! We need constant prayer so that God’s grace may keep overflowing into us as He saves each one who trusts in Him completely from everlasting destruction.
Christian Leaders Should be Held to a Higher Standard
Leadership is a heavy burden and great responsibility. Leaders will be judged by their peers, the people they lead…everyone makes mistakes–but when someone in an influential position says something wrong it affects more than just themselves
They’re sending out negative messages that can have lasting effects on others
A leader is one who has been called by God to guide, teach, and lead others in the ways of Christ. They must always be careful with every word they speak because it reflects on them as representatives for Jesus Christ Himself.
God requires leaders that will stand up against sin while promoting purity among believers; these people have a responsibility towards both God’s kingdom goals and the people they lead.
James is telling us that our voices can be more dangerous than any other weapon. We should err on the side of caution when it comes to using them because they have really clout and power in what we say! Taming the tongue removes a weapon that can hurt others.
James’s point isn’t that we should never open our mouths. He wants us to understand the importance of listening more often than speaking so as not to say something unhelpful or even destructive to another.
A Look at Bible Verses About Taming the Tongue
What is ironic about the tongue, is that:
The wildness of our language can be difficult to tame. It’s like expecting to find poisonous water and fresh coming out of the same fountain, but it goes against what God wants us to – tame our tongues – so we must rely on His strength in trying to bridle this stubborn tongue with patience and God’s strength. It’s like trying to manage a wild stallion!
Words are powerful. They can bring great joy, or they could leave deep wounds where scars cannot be seen, but one small word has the ability to impact another’s life greatly.
The power of our words is vast and can have an impact on others in ways we never imagine. One word from us may seem like nothing at all, but that same little piece could be what sinks their ship or makes them soar higher than ever before! Think of the child who is told they could never amount to anything.
We are not always in control of what our mouths say. The tongue wants to wander off on its own, but the brain needs guidance from God so that it can stay loyal and behave properly as part of this rebel body.
Peter is telling us that if we want to have a happy life and see good days ahead of us, then keep our mouths from doing anything bad. And importantly—don’t lie because God abhors a lying tongue!
James has a word for those who pretend to be religious but whose words reveal them as being untrustworthy: If someone really thinks they’re Christian yet lies and deceive; then that person’s religion is worthless. It’s one thing to say you’re a Christian but sometimes our words betray us; they reveal what’s in our heart.
Jesus illustrates this point by saying “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.” (Matthew 15:18) because it is “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” (Matthew 15:19).
The next time you feel like bursting into angry words, stop and think. Will what I’m saying really have a positive or negative effect on the recipient? If negative, then maybe the best thing to do would be just let it go; we won’t regret losing our tempers when truly momentary regrets can lead us and the listener down paths full of pain later on in life.
Gossip, secrets, and anger are all potentially explosive. One tiny bit of information can set a whole forest on fire – nothing packs more power than the human tongue! Taming the tongue is a critical key in our Christian walk.
The tongue is like a loose cannon on the wave-tossed ship. It can help you but also quickly turn against your best interests and those around them if they’re not careful with what’s coming out of their mouth!
Solomon, the wise king knew a gentle tongue was one that gave life but when used in an evil manner it could break someone’s spirit. At least it breaks their resistance to perversion.
The tongue and the words used can be profanity-laced or grace-filled. The choice is purely up to us. It is a matter of personal choice and should be Spirit-led. Remember that:
What was on the tongue of the psalmist should be on ours as well:
There is no greater use for the tongue than this:
While we know the tongue can cause hurt and chaos if not used with kindness and the strength of God, it can also be used in many positive and powerful ways. Proverbs is filled with verses about the importance of using the tongue for good and the power of the tongue when used to bless and lift up others.
We see that our words have the potential to be a fountain of life, nourish many and bring healing in just a few verses. I want my tongue known for using words that give rather than hurt!
These verses were written about the spoken word and the impact of what we speak toward other people.
Technology has changed the way we communicate, and our voices now carry a greater impact than ever before. With just a tweet or Facebook update in real time, you can potentially reach hundreds of thousands with your message! We are more capable than ever of positively impacting the lives of those around us.
Taming the Tongue with God’s Strength
1. Each Day Dedicate Your Heart, Mind, and, Yes, Tongue to the Lord
Pray that God would guard your mind against thoughts that lead to words of hurt or chaos. Offer all the words of the day ahead to Him with praise.
When we choose to praise, we are much less likely to slander, gossip, use fear-based words, and use words to hurt others.
2. Avoid Complaining
Complaining does little good. Especially in front of friends, coworkers, and particularly strangers. No one likes to hear complaining. I can be downright uncomfortable and can harm others.
3. Pray That God Would Give You Awareness of Your Words and Speech
There’s an old adage “Chew your words twice” and another “God gave us two ears and only one mouth for a reason:
Think before you speak. Listen to others carefully. Recognize your need for discernment and God’s help to allow you to be aware of your words.
If you’re meant to speak up, do it with boldness. If silence is what’s called for then be confident in your silence. Taming the tongue involves not just what to say, but when to speak, at all.
Take responsibility for the words that come out of your mouth.
4. Ask for Forgiveness if Your words are hurtful
We all make mistakes and occasionally say the wrong thing. Ask God to shine a light on any words that were unloving. Ask Him for forgiveness and then ask for forgiveness from the person you spoke to them to. Ask Him for help in taming the tongue.
Commit to doing better and speaking in ways that model Christ.
5. Practice Positive speech
Ask God to guide you to speak words that will honor Him and accomplish His purposes. Practice speaking words that encourage, edify, comfort, and inspire.
The goal is to speak life into others. Ask for guidance from the Lord on taming your tongue. Practice Ephesians 4:29:
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To encourage means to give support, confidence, or hope. To comfort means soothe and console with a sense of freedom from pain while edifying may cultivate development by building up. And inspire is the energy that drives someone forward in their goals- motivating them along their journey.
How blessed we are to have the ability to communicate with others! How you communicate can have an incredibly positive or negative effect on others.
We are called to be different in many ways as Christ-followers but especially with how we communicate. It can often feel like a great challenge not falling into impatience, sarcasm, or gossiping and negative talk; however, through positively impacting others by choosing words that build them up instead of tearing them down – you really do have an opportunity for an eternal impact! Through taming the tongue, we can help build the Kingdom of God!
If you are looking for more resources on taming the tongue, consider one of the following:
ESV – “Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”