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

Speaking with grace

“Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” (Col. 4:5)

Speech is as mundane an activity as any. We speak continuously throughout the day without thinking about it for a second. It is instinctive and automatic in many cases. And yet the Word of God places great emphasis on the moral nature of our speech and on how the people of God ought to use this good gift which God has given. The Bible is explicit in this teaching, that speech is a powerful tool, the proper use of which is great good and the misuse of which is a grave sin.  Speech is not like breathing or some other involuntary function of the body. Words do not simply spill from our mouths involuntarily, but as Scripture teaches, words flow from the abundance of the heart. (Matt. 12:34)

This topic is as relevant as ever. Our culture delights in what Solomon called the “mouth of fools” which “poureth out foolishness.” (Prov. 15:2)  Misuse of the Lord’s name is commonplace, profanity abounds, and the humor our society finds so enjoyable is vulgar. One need only turn on a television set on a Saturday night. Indeed little has changed since the Apostle’s day. Man is the same creature he was two millennia ago. He still uses his tongue, a “world of iniquity” as James aptly described it, to curse God and deal harm and ridicule to his neighbor. This being the case, it is all the more important that we study the Word of God and adhere to its standards for our speech and daily conversation. So important for the Christian is the right use of the tongue, that James calls a man’s religion vain if he does not bridle his tongue. The intention of this short reflection is to make a few positive observations about how we Christians are called to employ godly speech in this ungodly world.

There are numerous verses on this topic which one could examine with great profit. We shall be content with a brief consideration of Colossians 4:5 in which the Apostle Paul exhorts Christians, contrary to ways of the world, to speak always with grace and with words seasoned with salt. But what does it mean to speak with grace? We usually conceive of grace as God’s attitude of unmerited favor toward his people which flows from his own perfection and infinite goodness. However, grace is an attribute which can also be ascribed to the activity of a Christian who acts in accordance with the will of God. Generally speaking, this grace is an attitude of favor and of good-will which arises out of a regenerated heart and seeks the good of others. Positively, gracious speech is that kind of speech which is rooted in one’s own experience of God’s grace, through which God bestows His love and good-will toward us. As recipients of God’s unfathomable grace, we understand the depth of our own sin, and therefore in our daily conversions we must speak from an attitude of humility. Notice that the Apostle says “always.” Our speech must be full of grace not only when we attend church or Bible study, or when we are sharing the Gospel with an unbeliever. Rather the Apostle makes clear that this grace must characterize a Christian’s every-day talk, whether around the family table, in the work-place, or in the classroom. In short, everywhere and at all times we are called to speak with grace, imitating the example of Christ. Negatively, to speak with grace is to speak the truth in love without any taint of hatred, anger, or envy. Gracious speech, and therefore Christian speech, is never abusive. It does not seek to ridicule or harm another with lies, and it does not twist the truth for personal benefit. This includes gossip and the spreading of rumors, both of which have neither truth nor the good of the person as the goal. This is one of the great dangers of idle talk; rarely is it spoken with appropriate forethought or concern for the subject. The main goal of gossip is to stir up excitement, to arouse momentary pleasure in the latest juicy story, often at the expense of whoever the gossip is about. This is speech which is neither graceful nor seasoned with salt. We as young people must beware, for we can easily fall into this sin, a sin which ruins relationships and fractures the body of the Church.

This topic is not only important for building up the body of the Church through godly conversation among fellow saints, it is also crucial for maintaining the reputation and honor of the Gospel in the face of the wicked world. What we speak as well as the manner in which we speak often leaves upon an unbeliever some of his first impressions of Christianity. We may not see it, but those who are “without,” as the Apostle calls them, the unbeliever at the work place, the neighbor next door, and the apostate Christian down the street; they watch us, and they take note. Careless or sinful talk can easily ruin our Christian example. William Hendriksen sets forth this idea quite nicely in his commentary on Colossians. It is well worth reading.

In our speech we reflect and represent the Gospel to those who are outside the fellowship of the Church. The question is: do we consistently speak with grace? Are our words seasoned with salt? Or do we often, in the way we speak, conform to the pattern of this world? As children of God we must never speak as the world speaks. If we speak in this way, we bring shame upon the Gospel and give the ungodly cause to ridicule the name of Christ. Rather, being renewed in the spirit of our minds, we must speak in a way that is distinctly Christian and which agrees with our confession and our conduct.

Overall it is important to remember that God is a speaking God. By speech our God created all that exists, by His Word made flesh He redeemed His people, and by the very breath of His mouth He inspired the sacred Scriptures, through which He communicates His will. As the pinnacle of God’s creation man and woman have been given the gift of speech in order that we may reflect in this way the glory of our Creator. Our ability to speak has been given to us by God in order that we may respond to His own speech to us. Therefore, the tongue of the Christian ought always to be employed for the praise and honor of God and the edification of the neighbor, his every word a blessing to those who hear it. As the inspired Apostle Paul exhorted the Ephesians: “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.” (Eph. 4:29)

Brothers and sisters, as young people in the church, the Bible gives us pointed and serious instruction in this matter. Let us heed this word of God, and resolve to control our tongues and to dedicate them to the service of God. The tongue is a world of iniquity and a fire which can devour the entire body. This is true when the tongue is sinfully employed. And yet we read in Proverbs 15:4 that “a wholesome tongue is a tree of life.” May the Lord grant that this be the case among us, in order that our speech may be graceful and a means by which great good may be accomplished. As the Apostle Paul exhorted Timothy to set an example in his speech and conduct among the saints,  Let us all likewise strive to use our tongues to minister grace to our neighbors, to encourage our fellow saints, and in so doing, to bring glory of our most excellent Creator.