Guarding Our Tongue

Perhaps more than anything else the Bible warns us to control our tongues. Solomon, who was blessed with great measures of wisdom, tells us “Whoso keepeth his mouth and tongue keepeth his soul from troubles,” (Proverbs 21:22-24). How do we keep our mouth and tongue so we do not fall into trouble? Do we hide it and conceal it behind our lips as to prevent ever making offense?

Foolish it would be if we never used the gift of speech that God has given us. We most certainly must be a good steward of the ability to speak. I Peter 4:10-11 instructs us that every man that receives the ability to minister and speak must use that gift, so God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ.

How must we use this gift of speaking to glorify God? We must use our tongue as the lame beggar who went walking, and leaping, and praising God as a witness to all those who were around Him and were astounded by His ability to walk. We must use our tongue, even in the simplest things, to be a witness of the truth. If we fail to tell the truth when we are asked something as meaningless as how tall we are then how can we expect to be able to hold to the truth of God’s word which is offensive to many? There is also according to Ecclesiastes 3:7 “a time to keep silence.” As young people it is especially important to have this time of silence and listen to the wisdom of our parents, grandparents, and others who have wisdom from age and experience that we lack. It is also important that we use our tongue to communicate with others and God. It is essential that we communicate with God because our life in prayer is a reflection of our spiritual life.

God instructs us also that the tongue is as a devouring fire (Isaiah 30:27). Certainly, we must be careful in the use of this devouring fire. There is that use of the tongue as a fire which burns down others so we commit the sin of murder towards them and fail to be edifying in our communication. There are also many curse and swear words that, to the world, have become normal expressions. Many will say, “I know that my friends are not offended and I do not mean these words to be wickedness.” Perhaps our friends are fine with us saying things and maybe we are somewhat innocent in our use of such words, but is it acceptable before God? We always must come before God the judge, and the God whom we live our lives to glorify and please. Can we truly testify that no corrupt communication flows from our mouth, and that our conscience is holy before God?

It is a great temptation, especially given the world we live in, to say the phrases “O my God” and “O my Word”. These phrases have become the normal exclamation for surprise. God’s name is fearful and worthy of making one stop and pause with awe and respect. There is no word we can utter forth with our tongue that is as fearful as God’s name. According to the Heidelberg Catechism Q.A. 99 we must not profane or abuse the name of God. To profane something is to make it common. Therefore, the third commandment forbids any taking of God’s name and pulling it down from its lofty place. Often, we do realize that saying this phrase as an exclamation of surprise is wrong so then we change the wording a little bit and say, “O my goodness,” or “O my gosh.” It is good we try to change our bad habits, but these are not innocent phrases either. Mark 10 recounts the story of one who came running to Jesus and came to him saying good Master. Jesus said why callest thou me good for there is none good, but one, that is, God. Even Jesus would not allow someone to call him good. Should we then say O my goodness? (If you are interested Reverent Huizinga had a sermon on “Our Use of God’s Name” which spoke and gave a complete reasoning why we should avoid all phrases contained in the initials OMG. See the link below.

May we all be active in our efforts to please God with our tongues and pray the words of Psalm 141:3-4, “Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips. Incline not my heart to any evil thing, to practise wicked works with men that work iniquity…”

Luke Christian Potjer

The Proper Use of Our Tongues

There are many times in our lives where God chooses to place us right in the thick of a situation which frustrates us and tests our patience. And in many of those situations, we often fail to say the right thing to the person or people who seem to be testing our limits. How can we as Christians effectively exercise self-control in those difficult moments?

First of all, we must understand that we are not alone in facing this problem. James 3:8-10 says, “But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.” Without the grace of God, no Christian would have the ability to control his tongue at any point in time! Second, we must remember that the Bible sharply warns us against the improper use of our tongues. Ephesians 4:29 says, Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” But perhaps the sharpest warning the Bible has concerning the improper use of our tongues comes from James 1:26, which says, “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.” In other words, there is no reason for us to be practicing our religion at all if we are continually unable to control, or “bridle,” our own tongues! What a sharp and painful warning that should cause each of us to examine our own heart!

But what are some good ways (besides remembering what the Bible has to say) to “bridle” our tongues in situations that tempt us to do just the opposite? First, think before you speak! Remember that no matter how angry we are, what we choose to say will always have some sort of lasting impact on the person who is making us angry! Second, think of these difficult situations which tests our patience as opportunities! Opportunities to do what, you might say? Well, what about our calling as Christians to be effective witnesses to each person God chooses to place into our lives? Although difficult, using these frustrating situations as opportunities to be good Christian witnesses and even an encouragement to the person who is “testing our limits” can serve to motivate us to say something positive in that moment that will “build the person up” (I Thessalonians 5:11) instead of tearing the person down, which we are often tempted to do in those moments! In the meantime, we ought to pray for grace and the ability to say the right thing in moments which tempt us to sin with our tongue as David did in Psalm 141:3, “Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.”

Jonathan Lee

Samples from Seminary – God Spoke

As promised in my last post, here is another snippet from a conference that the seminary students attended this semester [1]. While this post cannot capture the captivating Welsh accent of the speaker, Derek Thomas, it can pose the same heart-probing question: God has spoken; what are you doing with his speech?

This is an important question because we are culpable for every word God has spoken. In other words, we are liable for what we do with God’s Word to us.

Indeed, God has spoken. He has done so in various ways. First, God speaks to us in creation. Romans 1:18-20 indicates that God manifests himself to all men in creation. Secondly, God speaks through his Son. For Jesus Christ is both truly God and truly man. Therefore, every time he spoke, God spoke. Finally, God speaks in Scripture. All of Scripture is the product of God “breathing out.” While God used human writers to record his word, nevertheless, God himself speaks in Scripture.

This is remarkable! The great God of heaven and of earth has spoken to us in a language that we can understand. This is an act of supreme grace on his part. Since God has taken the initiative in speaking to us, we have friendship and communion with Him.

What are you doing with this speech from God? And please note the present tense: what are you currently doing with it?

We know from Romans 1:18 that sinful man suppresses the speech of God. When this verse says that sinful men “hold the truth in unrighteousness,” the word “hold” means to hold down or to suppress. Derek Thomas used a helpful analogy for this – It is as though sinful man is holding his thumb over an open Coke bottle. Each of us can hold our thumb tightly over the mouth of a bottle to prevent any liquid from coming out. Are we doing the same thing with God’s speech to us?

Importantly, Derek Thomas posed this question to an audience of professing Christians. This question comes especially to those who have ready access to the Word, who sit under the preaching, who have opportunity to attend Bible studies, etc. More so than others, we are culpable for what we do with God’s Word to us. Thus, the question remains: God has spoken; what are we doing with it?

Matt Kortus

[1] The speech I am drawing from was given by Derek Thomas, who is the pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Columbia, SC. The speech was entitled “God Spoke” and was given at the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology hosted by the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. This conference comes each year to First CRC of Byron Center. The theme for this year’s conference was, “How Firm a Foundation: The Bible’s Authority, Sufficiency, and Clarity.”