The Unruly Tongue

“I will guard my ways that I may not sin with my tongue.” Psalm 39:1 NAS

“Thinking without speaking is always wiser than speaking without thinking.”

My thoughts today are about “the unruly tongue.”

The Bible asks, “Do any of you want to live a life that is long and good? Then watch your tongue! Keep your lips from telling lies! Turn away from evil and do good. Work hard at living in peace with others.” Psalm 34:10-14 NLT. Monitoring and managing your words is a challenge, but the reward is well worth the effort. You will have no scarcity of opinions, but will observe that some opinions are best kept to one’s self.

Here’s what I am learning: thinking without speaking is always wiser than speaking without thinking. Just because you think something does not make it wise to say it, without forethought. Often the best thing is to test your words before you share them. “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one . . let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth but what is good for necessary edification that it may impart grace to the hearer.” Colossians 4:7/Ephesians 4:29 NKJV.

If you do not evaluate your words before giving them a voice, your listeners become the arbiters of their suitability. Words can build up or tear down; they can edify or destroy. They can inspire or dishearten, being profitable or unprofitable. Choose well and wisely before you speak foolishly.

Often what you don’t say is as important as what you do say. The test for your words should always be two-fold: taste them as though you were hearing rather than speaking them, and test them if they properly reflect God’s standard of righteous communication. “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14 NKJV. Now that’s a guideline that will spare you a lot of hurt and embarrassment.

The Bible warns about idle words. “. . out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. For every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:34-37 NKJV. Your words will justify or condemn you; be advised.

Some people shock others by the words that come out of their mouth occasionally; a few people are even astonished by what they hear themselves saying! The Psalmist vowed, “I will guard my ways that I may not sin with my tongue.” Psalm 39:1 NAS. I have occasionally regretted not having spoken, but far more frequently have been grateful when I did not say what did not need to be spoken.

The Bible warns of the danger of an unruly tongue, “If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check . . no man can tame the tongue.” James 3:2-12 NIV. There is a connection between your self-disclosure and your self-discipline. And there is an answer to your incapacity to tame your tongue. Pray as did the Psalmist, “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.” Psalm 141: 3 NKJV. Much remains to be said of profanity and vulgarity, which reflect a profaned spirit and a limited and inappropriate vocabulary, and grieve God and soil one’s own soul. See Ephesians 4:29-32 NKJV.

My prayer for you today is that you will not discount the value of your words by speaking foolishly or thoughtlessly.