Psalm 39:1, “I said, “I will guard my ways, Lest I sin with my tongue; I will restrain my mouth with a muzzle, While the wicked are before me.”
Our tongues are great, God made them to be used for His glory. It becomes lethal if untamed. It’s a very small thing but has such great power. This makes me wonder whether the Lord gave us two ears and one mouth so that we will be inclined to hear more and speak less. I know the power of the tongue because I’ve said things I wished I did not, they cut deep like a sharp knife. It’s like a gun, once fired; it’s gone and cannot be retrieved. I hear people say, “Take back what you just said” as a figure of speech. I also hear some say, “speak your mind”, very dangerous request. Proverbs 18:21, tells us “Death and life are in the power of the tongue,…”. This verse is often used by prosperity preachers to tell their listeners that they can create their reality by how they speak, that you are what you speak. This is not correct, all the verse is saying is that a man may do a great deal of good, or a great deal of hurt, both to others and to himself, according to the use he makes of his tongue.
James (Jesus half-brother) is the only one I find in the Bible that describes greatly the power of the tongue. James provided several analogies that show how the tongue, even though small, has the power to control one’s whole person and influence everything in his life. He says “And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell”, James 3:6. The tongue is like a wild fire seeking to be unleashed. It is never satisfied, it is always looking for ways to be out of control. You may feel like I do sometimes to have the last word in a conversation showing exactly its drive. It is by the tongue that we blame and it is by the tongue that we justify ourselves even when we are wrong. What has been used the most to try and get people out of trouble? lying lips. The bible says, “Lying lips are abomination to the Lord”. It is by the tongue we speak error. We backbite and contaminate or ruin other people’s lives by it. Sometimes we say nice things but how we say them defiles even with good intentions. It is by the tongue that we boast the more, Luke 18 records of a Pharisee boasting in his prayer despising a publican praying too.
Can anyone put their tongue under control? James says no man can tame the tongue. He says people have tamed wild animals but have failed to tame their tongue. And the reason is simple, no one has the ability on their own to tame the tongue, only God by His power can do this. When we guard our ways as the Psalmist says, God’s power is present in us to overcome sinning with our tongue. To be conformed to the image of Christ and Him be formed in us (Galatians 4:18-20) is the means to bring our tongues under control. The psalmist says, “I will restrain my mouth with a muzzle”, a muzzle is a device that is placed over the snout of an animal to keep it from biting or otherwise opening its mouth. The muzzle is put in the mouth of an animal the times it needs it the most and our prayer to the Lord is help us muzzle our mouths so as not to sin. God’s word is a muzzle. Psalm 119:11, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You”.
How do we do it, James 1:19, “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; 20 for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God“. We need wisdom from above, James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him”. Proverbs 12:18, “There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, But the tongue of the wise promotes health”. How much more do we need wisdom to know when to be quite and when to speak encouraging words that build? Proverbs 15:2, “The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, But the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness”
Under frustration and anger, people often say things they wish they could take back. Husbands say things that hurt their wives and vise versa. Parents say things to their children, and we say things to our bosses, colleagues at work, and members of the body of Christ that hurt. On our own we are unable tame our tongues the reason to pray always to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves in how we hear, respond, speak. Our tongues untamed by the Holy Spirit is deadly on their own. Paul encourages Timothy his son, 2Timothy 2:23-25 “23 But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. 24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth”, All these are cultivated by the fear of God we should crave for. Blessings Ev