Taming The Tongue
Well I asked and you guys delivered, so here we go. This week I am writing on the topic of how we speak to one another, not only as brothers and sisters in the faith but also in how we dialogue with other people in general. Now I had always known that scripture had quite a bit to say on this topic, but I had underestimated how much it had to say. So without writing a book…I am going to focus on one or two texts in particular and go from there. I do want to give a warning however, this post is not for the faint of heart. Know that no matter who you are whether it be a pastor, theologian, lay-person, professor or even the Pope you are going to feel beat up after this. Scripture does not mince words here and in many instances is beyond brutally honest about the situation that people find themselves in who use their speech to other people in destructive ways.
Human speech is an area that many Christians pay little attention to. Yes, they may clean up their language and keep themselves from telling crude jokes, but that should just be the start. You see, within the biblical text there is a whole litany of issues related to human speech that we as God’s people must be aware of. Careless things said go from being an “expression” of our emotions to sin against God in a heartbeat. Many counselors and psychologists will tell you that to hold in these thoughts can be damaging to a person’s ability to express their emotions. What is interesting, is that scripture isn’t concerned with whether or not you can express your emotions or not. You see, we are told in multiple places that the desires of the human heart are evil (Matt. 15:19), and selfish (Jam. 4:1-2). If this is so, then why do we feel it prudent to express such things? Because it makes us “feel” better? Now I can attest, this is my area of greatest weakness. When I am frustrated or fed up whatever is going on the dame I had built over my mouth breaks and I gush all sorts of nonsense. In doing this study I have realized that getting the “stupid out” as I used to call it, is really in and of itself still SIN.
Proverbs 29:11 states, “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.” It would appear that in my attempt to “vent” I have in fact been proving just how big of a fool I really am. I now know why God has put this on so many people’s hearts, it as because it was a study I needed to do, one that had been overdue. Now that I have had it and am writing this I must say that I feel I am the most under qualified person to write on this area of Christian living. I have allowed vile things to pass through my lips and prove the words of Jesus right that were spoken in Matthew 15:18-19 when he said, “18But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. 19For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.” In my short life, I have said some truly despicable things, things that I wish could be taken back but cannot. You see despite the children’s saying, words do hurt people. They can be used to build up and they can be used to destroy, we are barred from using them in the later. Our job is to speak the truth, not to wreck someone in an effort to “point out their sin”, that is the Holy Spirit’s job let Him do that part. We are called to be witnesses to the person of Jesus Christ, not only in how we act, but also in how we speak to one another and to others. If we sound like everyone else in the world, how will they recognize Christ in us and notice a difference that requires attention? They cannot, and this is why we as Christians need to be better about being silent and holding back, rather than blurting forth every thought that comes to our minds.
Now if everything else that I have already written has not convinced you of just how seriously God takes this let’s go ahead and read James 3:6-12 which reads,
“6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.”
I read this over and over again trying to comprehend everything being said here, and it is some scary stuff. First we are told that the tongue is itself inherently a world of unrighteousness unto itself and that it has the ability to condemn the whole person to the fires of hell itself. He also impresses upon the reader that no human person can master this great evil and that our very worship of God is in some way convoluted by such speech. He essentially asks, “how is it possible to please God by blessing Him when we are busy cursing those made in His image and likeness?” It is an excellent question. Throughout our lives we meet people, are hurt and helped by them and bless and curse them. With this mouth that curses beings made in God’s image we attempt to bless Him and in so doing defile our worship and communion with Him. This is grievous and something that should not be taken lightly. The warnings within the biblical text are real warnings about the nature of what true Christian faith looks like. With time a person should become less toxic as they grow deeper in their faith. If you have been a Christian for a long time, and this has been a serious issue for you over the years, find someone you love and trust and ask them to hold you accountable for the things you say to people. Repent to God and make every effort to turn away from such behavior. I pray that this find all of you well and as always, thank you for reading.
With Christ’s Love
Justin (AKA The Nerdy Theologian)