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The Power of the Tongue

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!

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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.


What do you think?

13 Points


  1. The tongue is mightier than the sword. Well maybe. Out tongues are something needed and useful. Without it we would all be mute and go hungry. I think it is our minds that control the tongue. What we say and why we say it. Not the tongue. Emotions are a human characteristic. We all have them, from love to hate. And they can be extremely strong. So, it is out minds and emotions that spew hate and or give love. Not the tongue.

  2. This is a meaningful musing, Barbara. I am convinced that the spoken words will continue to echo throughout time and space. It is our consciousness that determines who leads our self and tongue, our ego or our soul.

  3. I really think if people would learn what God teaches us about how we use the words that
    come out of our mouths they would go a lot farther than we give them credit for Amen “>}

    Some (well the people I’ve talked to in the past) say some really HARSH words & use Gods
    name in vain & they act as if it’s normal & I just shake my head & have to leave the area. :>{

    • I’m afraid for many who don’t know God, these speech patterns are normal. But I’m most concerned for those who do profess to follow God and still utter hurtful words. We should know better, and God holds us more accountable for our words than he does those who don’t profess to follow him.

      • I do agree, as we that follow his words of the good book
        tells us of things we should be aware of his teachings in
        ALL things we do that there is a judgement day for ALL.

  4. That really is a good post. I think that we can know what heals and what wounds. In the end we all want mercy for ourselves and need to remember to also show mercy
    Focus on the Lord and read the Bible or any good book.
    Im a simple person. Love and kindness is what we need. It comes from the Lord who loves everyone,