Monday, September 19, 2011

The Power of the Tongue

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

- Ephesians 4:29

Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!  I don't know about you, but when I read verses like this one, well, it just plain hurts me.  No, I don't have severe potty mouth disease, nor do I go around cussing all day long.  It's just that I'm human and sometimes my mouth seems to have a mind of its own.  Oh, I want to keep unwholesome talk from coming out of my mouth, but sometimes...

I do take comfort in the fact that the Scriptures talk a lot about the mouth and the apparent trouble people have been having with theirs since Adam and Eve got booted from the Garden.  Here are a few of my favorites:

I said, “I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth while in the presence of the wicked.” - Psalm 39:1

The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit. - Proverbs 15:4

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” - Isaiah 6:5

Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. - James 3:4-6

Yikes!  The tongue is set on fire by hell?  Well, doesn't that make you feel better?  James goes on to say that no man can tame the tongue, which does, in an odd sort of way bring me some encouragement.  The passage from Isaiah is also encouraging for me in that even though Isaiah was a man of unclean lips living among a people of unclean lips God used him in a mighty way.  And further in this passage, after Isaiah confesses that he is unclean (sinful) God cleanses him just as He will cleanse us through the Messiah if we confess our sin to Him.

I must say that I've come a very long way with my speaking habits over the years, but I still have a long way to go.  God's Word not only convicts us of our improper, sinful behavior, but it also brings us encouragement so that we can move forward.  In that way our words can indeed bring benefit to others and be a tree of life rather than crush someone's spirit.  What an awesome God we serve!

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