Do You Have Control Over Your Tongue?
– In the Bible, James, in Chapter 3, tells us about how powerful our tongues can be for good or evil. What do you think when you see the tongue of the girl in the photo above (adapted from Pixabay)? You can discern her attitude and she hasn’t said a word. If she did, what kind of words do you think would come out of her mouth?
What James Says About Our Tongues
In James 3:1-5, James is cautioning those who would be teachers or authority figures, and thus examples to others whose words have great influence. God holds them accountable for every word of their teachings. James also admits that if a man makes no mistakes in his use of words, he would be perfect, and none of us are. He says if a man can control his tongue, he would be able to control everything else his body does.
James compares our tongues to the bit in a horse’s mouth or the rudder of a ship. Both are small but control something much bigger. He summarizes this passage in verse 5: So the tongue is a little member and boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire!
Taming the Human Tongue
According to James, the human tongue is “a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” He points out that every kind of creature on land, sea, and in the air can be tamed, but no one can tame the tongue. He says that we may use our tongues in one moment to praise God and then, shortly after, use it to curse another person who is created in Gods image.
I think we’d all agree with James that this not ought to be. Yet we experience it every day. We saw a lot of it during the recent presidential campaign and after our American election. We see it in our families as spouses and children frustrate each other. When is the last time you blew up over something rather trivial and used your own tongue in a way that hurt someone?
So How Do We Tames Our Tongues?
James gives us a hint in James 3:11-12. He asks if the same spring simultaneously gives us fresh pure water and polluted water. Or if a fig tree will produce olives. Of course not. In Matthew 5:11 Jesus tells us that what goes into our mouths isn’t what defiles us, but what comes out of them — our words.
In Matthew 12:34 Jesus explains that our words come from what is in our hearts. The only way I can see to tame our tongues is to cultivate a pure heart. We do that by filling our minds with the words of the Bible, being careful what we read and listen to, and making a conscious effort, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to be kind and encouraging. Paul told us what to think about in Philippians 4:8 — whatever is honorable, true, just, pure, lovely, gracious, excellent, or worthy of praise.
How Will You Use Your Tongue?
Think back on all the things you can remember about your childhood. Which words of your parents do you remember most? Those that hurt or those that healed?
Most people tend to remember the words that hurt them. Those words are harder to get over. An angry, sarcastic, or demeaning comment a person speaks to a child or anyone else without thinking — an outburst of only a few seconds — may hurt that person for years, if not a lifetime.
People hear many things that hurt them during their lives. We may not even mean our words to hurt, but they can be misunderstood. Teachers, parents, bosses, colleagues, friends — all can wound us. But they can also use words to heal wounds, build a person’s self-worth, and lead a person to faith in a God who is perfect and ultimately heals all the hurts careless words have inflicted.
Will you use your words to hurt or heal? It’s your choice to fill your heart with what is good so what is harmful won’t come out by instinct. Begin to cultivate your heart today so you can be a healer and encourager to others in their journey through life.