Day 5: Tame It! Taming Our Tongues
“He who guards his mouth and his tongue, guards his soul from troubles” (Proverbs 21:23, NASB).
If you ever need to be humbled (and we all do), just read a little of what the Bible says about our tongues. Yikes. Our tongues are capable of some pretty ugly stuff. But, if there’s one thing to be emphasized from what we’ve looked at so far, it’s that there is hope in Christ for every part of our lives. How we use our tongues is no exception.
With our tongues in particular, I think it’s really important to recognize what we are capable of and so often fall into. We read a lot in the Proverbs about our tongues and mouths; for example, Proverbs 15:14 says, “The mind of the intelligent seeks knowledge, but the mouth of fools feeds on folly” (NASB).
Other translations replace the word folly with “foolishness” or even “trash.” Thus, the point is clear: we are fools when we choose to use our tongues for what is sinful because we are choosing what is foolish and worthless. And if we’re honest, we’ve all used our tongues that way.
We also read about the connection between our tongues and sinful hearts; Jesus said, “What comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person” (Matthew 15:11). There is no doubt about the sin of which our tongues are capable.
But a writer named James described it most clearly, so we’ll take time to read what he wrote:
“The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue is also a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
All kinds of animals … are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be” (James 3:5-10, NIV).
I don’t think it could be more clear. Our tongues are truly capable of unparalleled wickedness, and they cannot be underestimated just because they are small. We need to be aware of this, and, with God’s help, we need to fight against it.
The Bible tells us how to do that. But it’s important to first emphasize that the verses we’ll look at are commands. To disobey them is to disobey God, but to obey them is to use our tongues as He intended—to use our tongues like Jesus did.
Psalm 34:13 says, “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies” (NIV). And the apostle Peter wrote this instruction: “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing” (1 Peter 3:9, NIV). We are called to use our tongues in a way that will likely be different from what we see around us. Even when it’s hard, even when we want to lie or retaliate, God asks us to act differently. If we want to be like the Lord Jesus and use our tongues like Him, we are called to this higher standard.
A verse that encapsulates how we should use our tongues is this:
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29, NIV).
While this verse gives “negative” instruction (what not to do), it also gives the positive. If our words don’t fit into this, then we aren’t using our tongues how God intended.
This is challenging—there’s no way around that. This takes daily surrender to God and dependence on Him. But we can find encouragement in the truth that one day every tongue will worship God. So while we need to use our tongues for good simply because God tells us to, we can also use them for good while we look forward to that day—the day when every single person will use their tongue to give God the worship He deserves.
“‘As I live,’ says the LORD, ‘every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God’” (Romans 14:11, NASB).
“Every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:11, NASB).
Let’s choose to be people who let God tame our tongues. We can’t do it on our own; James’ words make that very clear. But because God wants us to use them for His glory, He’ll help us to do it by the work of the Spirit in us. And then we’ll be people who can confidently say, “My tongue shall tell of Your righteousness and of Your praise all the day long” (Psalm 35:28).