Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
I was talking in Part 1 about the problem of our tongue—how we can hurt others by what we say. Many people’s lives have been ruined by a scathing lie that has been shared, or gossip. We talk with people every day. Have you ever said something that you wished you had never said?
- Read also Taming Your Tongue – Part 1
Sometimes we say it deliberately; other times it just comes out. But words once spoken are spoken, whether good or bad—they are spoken and they are out there. We can’t bring them back. We bless and we curse with our words.
Let’s talk about the power of our words. Words can hurt or heal—they can tear down or build up. Words are powerful.
A young lady named Sally and her mother had a violent shouting match about the dent Sally put in her mother’s car. After the confrontation, the father tried to console her. “What did your mother say about the dent in the car?”, he asked. “Dad, do you want me to leave out the swear words?” “Please,” he replied. Sally said, “Then she didn’t say anything.” That mother failed to realise that words also can leave ‘dents’ in people—but more than that they can damage and destroy a relationship. Dents can be hammered out of a car—they are much more difficult to remove from human beings.
We can use the tongue to blast someone: To verbally abuse a spouse. To verbally spank a child. To ridicule a classmate, colleague or co-worker. Or to put down another race of people. Have you been guilty of that?
We can bless or curse someone with our words
In the Bible we read in James 3:2, “If anyone can control his tongue, it proves that he has perfect control over himself in every other way.” (Living Bible). Taming the tongue is as big a problem today as it was in the early church. To explain how powerful the tongue is James compares it to the rudder of a ship or a bit in a horse’s mouth. Something so small has a lot of power and lot of control.
Consider for a moment the wonder of our power of speech. Tests have shown that when we hear a word, the physical movement that enters our ear and then inner ear activates 24,000 little nerves which react through the limbic system and results in the sending of hormones into the body. Our whole physical system reacts, when we hear words of care or condemnation. When we hear words that bring us pain or anxiety, the physical-chemical reaction takes 72 hours to subside. No wonder some people live in a perpetual state of agitation and upset! In our closest relationships we live out the old song, “you always hurt the one you love…”—especially with our tongues. We know just the right buttons to push.
Jesus made it quite clear in his example of a tree and its fruit in Luke 6:43-45. He said: “A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. You can tell what a tree is like by the fruit it produces. You can’t pick figs or grapes from thorn bushes. Good people do good things because of the good in their hearts. Bad people do bad things because of the evil in their hearts. Your words show what is in your heart”. What an amazing word here. It gets right to the point, doesn’t it?
How can we control our tongue?
The only way we can tame the tongue is through the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s the Holy Spirit who helps us to stop and think before we speak. Jesus points us back to Scripture again and again . . . to the fruits of the Spirit – patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control. I think that over time, we must learn to engage the brain before starting the mouth.
First, we can also use the tongue to bless others. We can tell a spouse, “I love you”; a child, “I am proud of you”; a neighbour “Welcome to the neighbourhood”.
Second, we can use our tongues to praise God.
Third, we can use our words to tell others about Jesus our Saviour. What an opportunity we have to tell others what God has done for us in Christ Jesus. God has called us to witness to others, to tell others how God has saved us from sin and called us to be His own children. We can tell others that God is our source of hope and foundation for life. He has given us tongues and lips and voices to use to His glory and for His purposes.
Let me ask you three questions:
- Have you ever hurt anybody with your words?
- Have you ever repeated something about another person that you did not know for certain was true?
- Have you ever participated in idle talk about other people and their lives?
James says that the tongue is like a spark that sets off a whole fire. We are all capable of saying things that can start World War III. It is like throwing a spark into a puddle of petrol and the whole thing flames up instantly. The tongue is like a spark that instantaneously ignites a huge fire around and about us.
But we need to speak, don’t we? That is how we communicate (mostly). We also communicate with a look, a touch, a smile, a frown, or by the volume or inflection in our voice. We also communicate with a wave of the hand, a beckon or an upturned thumb or an upturned finger!
Communication is a very important part of our lives. But with our tongue we can either bless or we can curse. So, let’s stop exaggerating, telling lies.