Is Your Tongue in Check

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One of the greatest challenges of growing in Christ is to learn how to overcome each day, through repentance, our sins of poor communication. Our words will either move people toward spiritual edification or prove to be worthless for their spiritual sanctification. So, our consistent victory toward honoring Christ in the regular use of our words is vital -- not only because a true Christian should always be aiming to “put to death” his sins (“For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” [Romans 8:13]), but also because we are to “Glorify God in our body” (1 Corinthians 6:20). A famous British preacher brings this point down to earth with these words:

“A Christian is someone who has learned to put his hand over his mouth” (Martyn Lloyd-Jones).

The sins that proceed from our tongues include those of both our non-verbal and verbal communication. As a Christian grows, he should notice an increasing concern, or sensitivity, as to how he is communicating with all people, believing and unbelieving alike. This is why the apostle Paul told the Ephesians (4:29), “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Therefore, we must be careful with how we use our tongues and our body language coupled with the tone of our tongues, which assist the words that proceed out of our mouths. Caution here is wisdom assisted by the words below:

“The Tongue is more deadly than the hand because it can kill at great distances.” – Unknown

O how many personal friendships have been severed, O how many marriages divided, O how many families damaged, O how many business relationships ruined, and O how many churches have been destroyed by Christians who are not careful with their tongues? This is why James warns us about this little member of our bodies encased securely behind our lips and teeth:

“For we all stumble in many ways, and if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body...So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members...setting on fire the entire course of life... set on fire by hell... [The tongue] is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God” (James 3:2-9). If we value the words of James, we should also consider those of the puritan Thomas Watson:

“… Let them whose tongues are set on fire, take heed that they do not one day in hell desire a drop of water to cool them.”

O dear professing Christian, let us pray fervently that we will all work on how and what we communicate. However, keep in mind that the answer to this prayer will not come apart from our consistent and humble acknowledgment of and repentance from our sins in this area of our lives:

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, …work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13).

Most importantly, may the sober words of our Lord Jesus serve as a seasoning grace in this God-honoring pursuit: ”...people will give account for every careless word they speak” (Matthew 12:36). 

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