Taming the Tongue

On Sunday as we began to look at the ninth commandment, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor,” we looked at the letter of James which reminds us of the dangers of the tongue.

James 3:6, “And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness.  The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.”  

I have noticed in the few days that have followed how true this is in my life as I consider my speech.  I have noticed how prone I am to complain.  How quick I am to share information when I should hold my tongue.  How fast my words can hurt and harm those around me.  I find myself thinking a lot this week, “Here I go again, me and my big mouth…”

It is easy for us to sin.  It is easy for us to become experts at being sarcastic or snarky.  Gossip glides off the lips and the desire to promote the good name of our neighbor goes down.  Charles Simeon (1759-1836), a minister in England, once wrote,

“The longer I live, the more I feel the importance of adhering to the following rules, which I have laid down for myself in relation to such matters: 1st. To hear as little as possible what is to the prejudice of others.  2nd. To believe nothing of the kind until I am absolutely forced to it.  3rd. Never to drink into the spirit of one who circulates an ill report.  4th. Always to moderate, as far as I can, the unkindness which is expressed toward others.  and 5th. Always to believe that if the other side were heard, a very different account would be given of the matter…” 

Simeon’s advice would serve us all well as we consider our speech and how it affects those around us.  Isaiah 6:4-5 reads, “And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.  And I said: “Woe is me!  For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

As Isaiah beholds the Lord, he is overcome.  He becomes speechless and realizes his sinfulness before God.  In Isaiah 6:6-7 we read of God’s forgiveness offered to Isaiah.  In Christ we realize that we, too, are forgiven for our sins.  But may we never use that as an excuse to sin.  I praise God this day that He forgives me, and that He cleanses me from every ill spoken word, for every time my mouth does not give praise to Him.  May we always remember, as believers in Christ, that God’s Spirit dwells within us.  We are not alone.  May God help us to put out the fire that rages from our mouths, so that all we do and say would give glory to God.