The Taming of the Tongue
Usually, when I get in trouble, it’s because I’ve said something stupid.
Sometimes, I’ll say something sarcastic, and somebody gets offended by it. Other times, I’m angry, and I say something in the heat of the moment that I later regret. Or, I’ll blurt out something before I’ve really thought about what I’m saying.
Open mouth, insert foot. I’ve done it so many times, I’ve developed athlete’s tongue.
Why is it so hard to not say something stupid?
Sometimes, the problem is that I like to hear myself talk too much. In my arrogance, I think everybody’s got to hear what I have to say. Sometimes, however, I just need to learn to shut up. Proverbs 18:21 tells us,
21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
And those who love it will eat its fruit.
When I talk, there are consequences for my words. My words can either point towards life in Jesus Christ, or towards death apart from Him. When I start talking just because I love to hear myself talk, I will “eat of the fruit” of my words – I will suffer consequences for my speech. Proverbs 10:19 tells us,
19 In the multitude of words sin is not lacking,
But he who restrains his lips is wise.
In other words, when I talk too much, I’m going to eventually say something stupid and sinful. So, if I’m wise, I’ll just shut up. James 3:8-10 tells us even more bluntly:
8 But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.
Why is it that “no man can tame the tongue?” All of us were born with a sin nature inherited from our parents, who inherited it from the first man, Adam. We were born with bodies cursed by Adam’s fall in the Garden of Eden. When a person receives Christ as Savior, we receive a new nature; however, we’re still trapped in our cursed bodies and in a fallen world, until the transformation is completed after we die, or are raptured. In Romans 7, Paul explains it this way:
13 Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. 16 If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. 17 But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. 19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. 20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.
So, for the time being, in this present life, Christians are stuck with the physical bodies and brains we were born with, until we get new, perfect ones in eternity. What do we do about the stupid things we all say, in the mean time? Psalm 34:12-14 tells us:
12 Who is the man who desires life,
And loves many days, that he may see good?
13 Keep your tongue from evil,
And your lips from speaking deceit.
14 Depart from evil and do good;
Seek peace and pursue it.
We must consciously choose to control our tongues. Although we will never be able to control everything we say in this life, with reliance on the Holy Spirit, we can certainly say a lot less stupid stuff. The key is to focus on the things of God, not the things of this world, or about ourselves, as Paul puts it in Philippians 4:
8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.
The things we focus on in our minds are the things that will come out of our mouths. If we want to stop saying stupid things, we need to stop thinking about stupid stuff. If we want to say things to build others up and draw others toward God, we need to be thinking about the things of God. Taming the tongue is something we cannot do in our own strength, wisdom, or power; it is only through depending on the grace and power of God through Jesus Christ that the tongue can be controlled.