#99 "Taming the Tongue"
June 5, 2007
"If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless." (James 1: 26)
"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." We've all heard that saying haven't we? Perhaps we've even said it ourselves.
I often expand on my "Tuesday's" for messages that I preach. Today I am going to use a message that I preached this past Saturday, for my "Tuesday's". The feedback that I received on this topic was amazing and humbly encouraging. It was truly a word in due season. So I'd like to share it with you today, the precious people who I have the privilege of sharing what God has put on my heart each week.
This devotional is about the tongue. We are going to see how that little saying about sticks and stones and words is SO NOT TRUE! Our tongues give expression either to our flesh and what we feel or to the spirit. We can use it to speak God's word or we can use it to express the devil's work. Unwittingly, many of us use our tongues for the latter. Even Christian folk, you know.
Proverbs 18: 21 says that "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who indulge in it shall eat the fruit of it (for death or life)." We have got to take the power of the tongue seriously. We can use it to bring blessing or destruction to our own lives and also to the lives of many others.
In our verse for today, James says that our religion is useless and worthless if we don't keep a tight rein on our tongues. Our church attendance, prayer, fasting, tithing, reading the Bible and Christian talk are all worthless if we don't tame our tongues. And if you think your words don't matter, well, James says that you're fooling yourself. One who is truly religious will demonstrate it by controlled speech. He elaborates on this very same topic in Chapter 3. If you would please read this passage from the book of James, the half brother of Jesus. It will help you understand the word today regarding your tongue.
What was the first thing you said today when you got out of bed? What about at the office? Or on the telephone? You may think that those words don't matter, but James says that they do. Even Jesus warned us in Matthew 12:37 that "by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned." We need to learn to tame our tongues! In Psalm 39: 1, David said, "I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth as long as the wicked are in my presence." Spiritual maturity requires a tamed tongue!
The tongue is small, yet influential. James uses three examples: the bit and the horse, the rudder and the large ship, and the spark and the great forest. In the same way, the tongue is small but it makes great messes. It's petite but powerful. "It is with men as with horses: control their mouth and you are masters of all their action." (Ropes) The tongue is also perverse, or turned away from what is right or good. It is corrupt. And far worse than that, it can be satanic and infectious. James says that the tongue is a fire, and a world of evil. Proverbs 16: 27 says that "a scoundrel plots evil, and his speech is like a scorching fire."
James says that the tongue corrupts the whole person, and sets the whole course of his life on fire. It is as though the tongue is at the center or the hub of the wheel of nature and, like a fireworks display, the wheel is set on fire at the center. The more it burns, the faster it revolves until the whole wheel spins in a blaze, spitting fire in all directions. But the tongue is only the fuse. James says that the source of the deadly fire is hell itself. And he tells us that no man can tame it.
So what is our hope of ever getting this thing under control? The tongue is undisciplined and wild, always wanting to do its' own thing. A child is like that. Or a wild animal or appetite. That's why we need the Holy Spirit to control our tongues. God can tame your tongue! But He won't do it alone. You can't just get delivered from an unruly tongue. God wants your cooperation. You must learn to discipline your tongue and take full responsibility for what it says. If not, you will spew the deadly poison of your tongue and the venom of hate and death-dealing words . And those death-dealing words won't just affect you. They will affect all those around you.
Words are containers for power. Your words have the power to bless or curse your life and the lives of those around you. "Blessing" is speaking well of. "Cursing" is wishing evil on someone or something. Would you rather bless or curse with your words? I was the victim of verbal abuse for most of the first half of my life. I used to think that I shouldn't call it abuse because that sounded too harsh. But the definition of verbal abuse is "language that condemns, usually unjustly and angrily. It usually goes along with the anger of the one speaking and stresses the harshness of the language." By that definition, I was verbally abused...by my parents and later by my first husband. I can tell you first hand that those words cut through a person sharper than any fist ever could. The bruises of emotional and verbal abuse cannot be seen outwardly but they are there nonetheless. And they hurt just as much. Proverbs 12: 18 says that, "Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." No outward bruises, but inward pain. I share this with you today to let you hear from a living, breathing, fallible person that words hurt and damage and destroy if we choose to direct them in ungodly ways. The damage can affect people for the rest of their lives. Your words matter. Finding out who I am in Christ and allowing Him to heal my wounds has brought me out of that pit that I was thrown into by other people's words. But take it from me...Your words matter!
Have you ever heard the old Indian expression, "He speaks with forked tongue?" Well, snakes have forked tongues. They come out from the snake's mouth and go in two directions. Similar to the forked tongue of the snake is man's uncontrolled tongue, which speaks praise and spews curses. James says that with the tongue we praise our Lord and Father (which is our tongues' highest purpose, by the way), and with it we curse or wish evil on men who have been made in God's likeness. It doesn't fit. James says, "my brothers, this should not be." It's not in harmony. It's inconsistent. Fresh water can't flow from a spring along with bitter water. Fig trees can't produce olives. Grapevines don't bear figs. Apple trees don't bear oranges. Everything in nature goes in an orderly course of good or bad. So should our tongues. Your tongue should not be an instrument of inconsistency. The tongue is small and influential and must be controlled. It's satanic and infectious and it must be corralled. It's salty and inconsistent and it must be cleansed.
So how do we beat down this little member that is contained in a cage of teeth and lips, but still escapes all the time? First of all, understand that the kind of life that you want starts with your words. It starts with the blessing of your words and the creative power that lies in those same words. You can affect your life with the words that you speak. In Genesis Chapter 1, we see that everything that was created was created with God's word. We are made in the image and likeness of God. We repeatedly see in the creation account, "And God said,..."..."And God said,...." God created everything with His word. God also spoke blessings with words. He blessed Adam and Eve in verse 28 with His words. In Genesis 22:17 God made His covenant of blessing with Abraham with what? Words. Blessings and curses come through words. Hebrews 1:3 says that Jesus, "sustains all things by His powerful Word." Jesus sustains and keeps all things by His Word. Psalm 138: 2 says that God has exalted His name and His Word above all else." God's word is full of power and that is step number one in bridling our tongues. Learn the Word of God. Read it. Study it. Memorize it. Chew on it. Meditate on it.
The key to right talk is right thought. Intelligence doesn't keep the lock on the cage. Neither does money or social status or lack thereof. Wisdom and understanding of the word of God, planted in your heart and your mind...that's what keeps the tongue locked tight in its' cage. Jesus said that "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." What's in your heart? What's in your mind? What do you occupy your day with and allow to enter your spirit? Is it the world and the TV talk shows and what momma and them say, or is it what God says? Proverbs 4: 20-24 says this, "pay attention to what I (God) say; listen closely to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to a man's whole body. ABOVE ALL ELSE, GUARD YOUR HEART, FOR OUT OF IT FLOW THE ISSUES OF LIFE. Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk from your mouth." Guard your heart from wrong things that want to get in. Good speech demands a wise source. Your mouth is connected to your mind. Psalm 119: 11 says, "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." There you have it! Fill your mind and your heart with God's word and out of the abundance of what's in your heart, your mouth will speak...for good or evil. God's word in....God's word and good things out. Garbage in...garbage out!
Step number two in taming the tongue is to pay closer attention to what you say. Our loose lips may be something we've paid no attention to until now. Sometimes we say the most ridiculous things! If we could just hear some of the things we say on a tape recorder we might begin to see why we have some of the problems in our lives that we have. We would hear words of doubt, unbelief, complaining, grumbling, fear and all sorts of negative talk. We'd hear, "That kid of mine will never change. This marriage won't ever work out. Every time I get a little money, something happens and takes it away. Nobody loves me. I guess I'm just destined to be alone all of my life." But....at the same time we say that we are "believing" for that child, that marriage, our finances, our future spouse. Out of the same mouth??? Forked tongue????
Or we say things about ourselves. Things like, "I think I'm going crazy. I forget things all the time. I must be getting Alzheimers. If this doesn't stop, I'm going to have a nervous breakdown. (by the way, that used to be one of my personal faves). I'm dumb, ignorant, stupid. Sometimes other people don't have to be the ones pouring this poison into our lives. Many times it's our own mouths! Speak life...not death!!
Did you watch this season's American Idol? Do you remember Melinda Doolittle? From what I understand she was a strong woman of God. I was so excited one night when she was asked to sing a certain song and one of the lines would require her to call herself a "loser". Well, that girl knew the importance of the words that she spoke over herself. She refused to sing that line as it was written and changed it. And she let millions of people know that she believes in the power of words over her life. She knew that she was not a loser and she wasn't about to speak that over herself.
Pay more attention to what you say and replace those words with God's word and what He says about you. Find Scripture that relates to your problems and speak those words, out loud, to your problem instead of the negative words that you have been using. Speak it over the people in your life. Whether those words line up with what you see right now or not. Ephesians 5:1 tells us to be imitators of God. And do you know what God does? He "calls those things that are not as though they were." Call things in your life that are not, as though they were. God's word is living and active and full of His power. Angels respond to His Word. Situations respond to His Word. Illness and lack respond to His Word, spoken in faith..calling those things that be not as though they were. Line your mouth up with His Word and get ready for the blessing to hit your house! And then praise Him and thank Him for it!
It's not enough to pay attention to your words. Pay attention to your thoughts. That's step number three. The Bible says, "as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." What you're thinking will inevitably come out of your mouth. But right thinking will change wrong actions. Conquer your old way of thinking with a new way of thinking. Philippians 4: 8 tells us what to think about: "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." Change your mind and you will change your life! Renew your mind with God's word. It always goes back to that with me. If you haven't seen me in a long time, that's where you can always find me...standing on God's wonderful, amazing, awesome Word.
Last, and certainly not least..pray. If you know that you need help with your mouth..pray. Ask God to convict you when you're talking too much. Or when you're saying things that you shouldn't. Be sensitive to the inner nudging of the Holy Spirit as He tells you gently to "shut up" when you're speaking negative things or when you're complaining, sounding harsh or any other kind of evil speaking. Pray Psalm 141:3: "Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips." And Psalm 19: 14: "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart, be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer." God will answer those sincere prayers. He once told Moses, "I will help you speak and will teach you what to say." He's no respecter of persons...He'll do the same for you.
I have included an attachment for you with multiple Scriptures contained in your Bible regarding the tongue. Take some time and read them. Digest them. Heed them.
Watchman Nee, a bible teacher in the last century once said, "If you listen to a person, you can detect by their words the spirit that is coming forth from them." Your words reflect who you really are! That is why it is so important to place a guard upon your lips so that only good things issue forth from them. Kind things, positive things, edifying things that line up with the Word of God. Change your thoughts and words and you will change your actions and behaviors. And I believe that with the help of the Spirit of God, you will change your life. You can choose to imitate the devil (see John 8:44) and speak forth lies and accusations and every manner of evil speaking. Or you can choose to imitate Christ who never opened His mouth for evil (see Isaiah 53:7), who never said a deceitful word (see 1 Peter 2: 22-23). Who would you rather fashion your words after?
It's your choice today! God said that He places before you life and death. Blessing or cursing. And He says for you to choose life! Remember that your words are containers for power. Power over your life and the lives of those around you. For blessing and life or for cursing and death.
Sticks and stones CAN break your bones and words can DEFINITELY hurt you!
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