By David Faust
Proverbs 21:23 says, “Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity.” At work, your words can get you promoted—or fired. Your social media posts can build a positive reputation—or haunt you years from now. According to Jesus, your words will either acquit you or condemn you (Matthew 12:37).
Verbal arsonists torch others with words, but if our tongues are tied to the lordship of Christ, we won’t destroy others with gossip and ridicule. As someone observed, at times it would be better to use a glue stick instead of Chapstick. “Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down” (Proverbs 26:20). In a culture aflame with hostility, we don’t need to throw more logs on the fire.
Silence isn’t always golden, though. It’s possible to misuse our tongues by not using them at all. There are times we must speak up. Effective leaders offer constructive criticism. Winning coaches give their players timely advice. Loving parents use words of correction to guide their children.
Just as a watchman standing guard on a city’s wall had a solemn responsibility to warn residents when he saw danger coming (Ezekiel 33:7-9), today’s preacher must declare “the whole will of God” (Acts 20:27). It’s wrong to remain silent when others are in danger or when opportunities arise to offer hope. Peter urged, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
Tongues tied to the lordship of Christ speak words that are uplifting, not destructive. A heart filled with gratitude contains no room for “grumbling or arguing” (Philippians 2:14).
What will it take to tame your tongue? Here are three ideas to consider.
Admit that you need God’s help. For most of us, speech control will be a lifelong battle.
“No human being can tame the tongue” (James 3:8)—but God can! “With God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). No ordinary human being can come back from the grave—but Jesus did. By ourselves we can’t tame our tongues, but the Lord is eager to help. If we want to keep a tight rein on our tongues (James 1:26), we should give God the reins!
Remember: You pour out what you soak up. What’s down in the well comes out of the faucet. What’s in the tree comes out in the fruit. Jesus said, “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34, Berean Study Bible). All too frequently that means GIGO—“garbage in, garbage out.” Let’s be careful what we soak up. An angry heart leads to a harsh tongue. A negative heart results in a critical tongue. An unsettled heart leads to an overactive tongue. A prideful heart leads to a boastful tongue. The hardest muscle to tame isn’t the tongue; it’s the heart. That’s why we should pray, “Create in me a pure heart, O God” (Psalm 51:10).
Say yes to Jesus over and over again. Near the cross, bystanders mocked and ridiculed Jesus, but the centurion confessed, “Surely he was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:54). Instead of joining our voices with mockers, let’s practice for that great day when every tongue confesses Jesus Christ as Lord (Philippians 2:11).
Personal Challenge: Discuss these two questions with a trusted friend or accountability partner:
- What habits of speech (both positive and negative) do we notice in each other?
- How can we hold each other accountable to use words that honor Christ and build others up?