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Speech is one of the most powerful forces human beings have available to them, for by their words they can bring great benefit or do great damage (Proverbs 12:18; Proverbs 12:25; Proverbs 15:1; Proverbs 15:4; James 3:5; James 3:9). What they say and the way they say it are therefore matters of the highest importance. Yet all people have difficulty with them. The person who can control the tongue can control the whole self (James 3:1-4; James 3:7-8; cf. Psalms 141:3).

Control of the tongue

The root of people’s problem with the tongue is the evil heart within them. Sin has corrupted human nature, and the wrong within people shows itself in an uncontrolled tongue (Mark 7:21-23; James 3:6). Christians, being indwelt by the Spirit, have divine help in resisting the pressures of the old nature. The Spirit teaches them to control the tongue and makes them realize the inconsistency of using the same tongue to bless God and curse their fellows (Galatians 5:17; Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 4:30-31; Colossians 4:6; Titus 2:8; James 1:26; James 3:9-12; see BLESSING; CURSE; MALICE; PRAISE).

Wrong use of the tongue does not have to be as obvious as cursing in order to be damaging. It may consist only of idle chatter, because even that can easily involve harmful gossip (Proverbs 11:9; Proverbs 11:13; Proverbs 26:18-22; Ecclesiastes 5:3; see GOSSIP). Since the more a people speak the more likely they are to sin, wise people will limit their words and control the way they expresses them. Fools, by contrast, talk at length and so proclaims their folly (Proverbs 10:19; Proverbs 12:23; Proverbs 15:2; Proverbs 17:27-28; Proverbs 18:2; Proverbs 18:6-7; 2 Corinthians 11:16-19; Ephesians 5:4; see BOASTING; FOOLISHNESS).

Although people may control their words, such control must be sincere. If they simply uses smooth words to hide evil feelings, they are hypocrites (Psalms 41:5-6; Psalms 55:21; Proverbs 10:18; Proverbs 26:23-25; Matthew 22:15-18; Matthew 23:28; see HYPOCRISY). They must be truthful and straightforward with the words they use. The cunning twisting of words can be merely a form of lying (Proverbs 12:19; 2 Corinthians 4:2; Ephesians 4:25; 1 Peter 3:10; see LIE). While people should always speak the truth, they should do so in a spirit of love. Their words give an indication of the quality of their character (Proverbs 10:11; Proverbs 10:20-21; Proverbs 16:23; Ephesians 4:15; James 1:19; see TRUTH).

Christian witness

Words are an indication of people’s relationship with Christ. They may confess Christ as Lord, or deny all knowledge of him (Romans 10:9; Matthew 26:70-74; see CONFESSION; DENIAL). But a confession of faith may be false (1 Timothy 1:19), and a denial of Christ may be a temporary failure that a person soon corrects (John 21:15-17). Everyday speech, rather than an occasional public declaration, is often a better indication of a person’s spiritual condition. Such everyday speech will be used as evidence on the day of judgment (Matthew 12:36-37).

Christian preachers in particular have to be careful with their words. They know that words are persuasive (Proverbs 16:21), and therefore they must be careful not to use their speaking abilities to gain control over people. They should want people to have their faith rooted in God and his Word, not in the preacher and his style (1 Corinthians 2:1-5; 1 Corinthians 3:5-7; 2 Corinthians 4:2; 2 Corinthians 11:6; 1 Thessalonians 2:4; see PREACHING).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Fleming, Don. Entry for 'Tongue'. Bridgeway Bible Dictionary. 2004.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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