Restraining the Tongue

For we all often stumble and fall and offend in many things. And if any one does not offend in speech (never says the wrong things) he is a fully developed character, able to control his whole body and to curb his entire nature (James 3:2).

From time to time, we receive much needed instruction about the dangers of the teaching of Speaking in Tongues, but we also need to be instructed about the dangers of carelessly speaking in tongues that God has given to all of us. Below is a list of ways that as God’s people we can wrongfully employ the tongue.

1. We often flatter people, saying nice things about them which we really do not mean.

This is not only dishonest, but it generally leads us into future problems. "A man who flatters his neighbor spreads a net for his feet" (Prov. 29:5). There are times when we have to tell people the truth even if it is not flattering to them. "He who rebukes a man will find more favor afterward than he who flatters with the tongue" (Prov. 28:23). Paul was careful not to use flattery in his reaching out to others with the truth. We do not build others in Christ by flattery. "But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts. For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness - God is witness" (1 Thess. 2:4,5).

2. More often than we realize, we use the tongue to boast. Boasting is a very subtle thing that can happen before we realize it. We do something that we think merits the attention of others and we begin to talk about it. "Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things" (James 3:5). We not only boast about our past accomplishments, but many times we boast about our future plans. This is as much a manifestation of pride as the former. "But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil" (James 4:16). If flattery is used to appeal to the pride of others, boasting is an act of self-flattery.

3. The tongue too often is engaged in gossip. Many times we do not intend it to be gossip, but our tongue has a way of straying from our original intentions. Whenever we talk about people behind their backs, we are generally engaging in gossip. One of the characteristics of the wicked is described as those "who sharpen their tongue like a sword, and bend their arrows (bitter words), that they may shoot in secret at the blameless" (Ps. 64:3,4). Our tongue can become a sword that pierces others in the back. Many a character has been smudged by careless words spoken by others.

4. All of us have experienced at times the horror of allowing the tongue to take off during a time of anger. We know what it is to give someone a real "tongue lashing". We are really defending our injured pride. "And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell...With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the likeness of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, These things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? (Ja. 3:6,9-11).

5. Finally, the tongue is often used as a weapon of deceit. We utter many words of hypocrisy with the tongue. We make ourselves sound far more pious than we really are. "My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth" (1 Jn. 3:18). Peter exhorts us to lay aside all guile and hypocrisy (1 Pet. 2:1). The tongue loves to run ahead of our true heart experiences.

Let us then become increasingly aware of the dangerous potential of the tongue. James says that it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison (Ja. 3:8). When we become aware of its evil employment, we can then turn to the Lord for deliverance. Too often we do not recognize the sin of the tongue and thus we do not judge the sin before God. No man can tame the tongue, but God can control it if we ask Him in sincerity. May we daily breathe the prayer of Psalm 19:14, "Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer".