Taming the Tongue
“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” – Ephesians 4:29
Have you ever heard someone described in the following manner? “He will shoot you straight and tell you how it is! He is going to tell you what he thinks!” It is almost as if such behavior is an admirable trait, as if that were some Christian virtue or attribute. But what such a statement really means is that the person they are referring to does not have tact and cannot control their tongue. Telling people what you think is not a spiritual gift. Sometimes your opinion may not be as valuable as you think it is. God wants you to use discernment and think when you open your mouth. Just as the Apostle Paul explained in the passage above, you should ask yourself, will it be edifying for the moment, and will it offer grace to the hearer. Just because you feel a certain way about something does not mean you have to verbalize it.
A lot of people justify and excuse their sinful behavior “of telling it how it is” by saying, “Oh that is just the way I am.” But I beg to differ; that is not how it should be for those who belong to Christ. A genuine encounter with the Lord will bring radical change; a change that transforms your “Oh that is just the way I am” to a “that’s just the way I was.” When Christ comes into your life, you become a new creation, and you are transformed into His likeness (2 Corinthians 5:17). Being born again will change your carnal fleshly ways and compel you to speak words that continually honor the Lord.
I am reminded of Psalm 141:3 when the psalmist said, “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.” Solomon, considered the wisest man ever, said in Proverbs 21:23, “He who guards his mouth and his tongue, Guards his soul from troubles.” The tongue can be used in a positive manner, like encouragement and edification. On the other hand, the tongue can be used for bad, such as not using discernment on when to speak. For such a small part of the body, the tongue can create havoc if not used in the right manner. James compares the tongue to the bit in a horse’s mouth, which controls the direction the horse will turn & go (James 3:3). Animals can be tamed, but no man in history has been able to tame the tongue!
One of the birthmarks of the believer is that he will reflect Jesus with their words. I like what author Alan Redpath said about words. He suggests the acrostic “THINK.” The “T” ought to make you ask yourself if what you are about to say is True.” The “H” ought to make you ask yourself if what you are about to say is Helpful. The “I” ought to make you ask yourself if what you are about to say is Inspiring. The “N” ought to make you ask yourself if what you are about to say is Necessary. The “K” ought to make you ask yourself if what you are about to say is Kind. In other words, “THINK” before you speak! The Christian ought to learn to discipline his words, and filter what he is about to say with asking other questions such as “Is it edifying? Does it fit the moment?” I have found out in my life that not everyone really wants to hear what I think! I write this devotional because this is an area in my life I have struggled with. What have I learned? The Christian must take every thought captive to the obedience to Christ, and allow his words to edify the saints and glorify God. Bottom line, it would be wise for the Christian to keep his words sweet, because he’ll never know when he might have to eat them.
– Pastor Eric