Taming the tongue

This may sometimes seem like the only way to keep the tongue under wraps.

The tongue is such a powerful part of the human anatomy. It is so potent, in fact, that the Bible declares that the tongue has the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21). When trying to make our tongue’s slaves to righteousness, it can sometimes seem like an uphill climb—something that I can more than attest.

From the previous post, however, we know that we are called to display our covenant with Christ through our words, by the seasoning of our conversation with salt (Colossians 4:6). The words we utter are an offering to God, and not only do we want to please God by the things we say, but also to effectively testify our faith in Christ.

In our efforts to conform the tongue into the likeness of Christ, we must first understand the “beast” that is the tongue. Its power is highlighted in James 3:5-6:

“Likewise 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 also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”

If we really stopped and took the time to think about it, we could testify to the tongue’s destructive power at some point in our lives. Most of our problems, I conjecture, have more to do with the things we say than the things we do—including our sins. 1 Corinthians 15:33 offers, “Evil communications corrupt good manners” (KJV).

Even when being tempted, before our lust conceives sin (James 1:15), a conversation takes place between us and the tempter (Satan). Our response to that temptation determines whether we actually act on our desires.

Eve’s response to the devil is noticeably different from that of Christ. Genesis 3 accounts Eve’s brief conversation with the adversary, where her nonchalant response leads to her eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Jesus, however, after being tempted three different times, sharply responded on each occasion with “It is written” (Matthew 4). Christ, of course, did not sin.

The difference in these two instances is dedication to God’s word. Likewise, the Bible commands the believer not to merely hear the word, but to do what it says. James 1:22-24 posits:

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.”

There is absolutely no way we can bring our tongues’ under subjection apart from the word of God. Not only must we listen to the word, but meditate on it (Psalm 1:2), that we would be prepared to follow Jesus’ example and relegate our conversation to what the word says.

The word of God accomplishes so many things to tame the tongue—the biggest probably being a shift in mentality. By allowing the word to wash us (Ephesians 5:26) and sanctify us (John 17:17), we will effectively grow up in our salvation (1 Peter 2:2).

It is the word of God that allows us to adhere to the clarion call of Romans 12:2, which states, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” The tongue that follows the world’s pattern takes its promptings from the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life (1 John 2:16). On the contrary, the mind that dwells on things of above (Colossians 3:2) will yield speech that reflects those thoughts.

Philippians 4:8 forwards in this regard, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Based on the word, there is a practical way to control the wildfire that is the tongue: keep you mouth shut! James 1:19 implores, “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”

Proverbs 10:19 states, “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.” Ecclesiastes 5:2 gives this sound advice, “Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.”

No matter where you are in Christ, there is one thing to strongly consider: “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 2:2).


~ by christianballenger on May 26, 2011.

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