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Taming Our Tongues

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Taming Our Tongues

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"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." Most of us have probably heard this saying, especially when we were kids. But it isn't really true, is it? Words can hurt and hurtful words can have a lasting impact. Taming our tongue is probably the hardest thing to do in life. With our words we can edify, encourage and strengthen; or we can wound, tear down and weaken. As Proverbs 18:21 reminds us, we hold the power of life or death in our words. What is your reputation concerning your speech? How do you think your words will be remembered? Taming Our Thoughts When we consider taming our tongue, what we are really talking about is taming our thoughts so that our speech reflects thoughts in control. Proverbs 23:7 states, "As [a man] thinks in his heart, so is he." Therein is the real crux of the matter: It is even harder to control our mind than our tongue, but as a Christian we can and we must. God's Word gives us the instruction we need to tame our thoughts. In Colossians 3:8 the apostle Paul describes the characteristics Christians should strive to put off: "Anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language." Most of these attitudes or actions expressed in our speech actually begin in our thoughts. Paul summarizes what our thoughts and speech should be when he says, "And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called" (Colossians 3:15). Paul finishes the chapter mentioning specific applications of God ruling in our hearts to wives, husbands, children, fathers, servants and masters. No one is exempt from framing their thoughts in a godly way first before expressing them in spoken words to others. Lessons From James The apostle James spoke of our struggle with our speech in chapter 3 of his epistle: "If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body," (James 3:2). The King James Version translates the word "stumble" as "offend." Who hasn't regretted something he or she has said, wishing he or she could take it back? Is the speech we use harsh, condemning, condescending? Or is it comforting, patient and encouraging? God expects us to remember that our communication with each other should edify rather than cause someone to stumble in living God's way of life. In fact, we are specifically instructed not to make others stumble (Mark 9:42). One positive way we can use our speech is to recognize in others the good things we see them do. Catch someone doing the right thing and let them know. A simple compliment can reinforce the behavior God wants to see in all of us. In verses 3 and 4 James talks of the power in our tongue by using the analogies of a ship's rudder and a bridle in a horse's mouth. These are great analogies because rudders and bridles are small devices used to direct much larger objects. In what direction are we letting our tongues take us? Does our speech lead us to build up and improve or to tear down and ruin? As Christians, we must always remember that our thoughts direct our words, and our words direct our actions. The small things we say, which we may think will not have much impact, can change the course of someone's outlook, mood or even (if said often enough) the course of someone's life—for good or bad. James continues in verses 5 and 6 discussing the damage our words can do if we are not careful. He likens that damage to the damage a fire causes. We are cautioned that if we allow our speech to "burn" others, we can be in danger of the judgment fire (eternal death). Searing sarcasm or put-downs are two examples of types of speech that can damage others. Instead, James instructs us that we must apply a wisdom to our words that is not worldly. In fact, taming the tongue is a matter of applying God's wisdom every day (James 3:17). Speaking With Godly Wisdom How do we apply God's wisdom in our speech? A major part of using God's wisdom in our speech is to not forget God's law and to put His commandments in our heart (Proverbs 3:1). If our mouths are to speak from the abundance of our hearts, then our hearts must have the right thoughts from which to speak. God's commandments provide this proper foundation. From this perspective, the book of Proverbs has much wisdom to offer in how to live and interact with others. Here are some verses in Proverbs that can help us to understand the power of our words: • The wrong words can aggravate a problem, but the right words will remove contention (Proverbs 15:1). • Our words can be health to ourselves and others, or they can take health away (Proverbs 15:4). • There is a connection between character and speech (Proverbs 17:7). • Talebearing separates friends (Proverbs 17:9). • An argument that leads to strife is like breeching a dam (Proverbs 17:14). • Telling lies will only lead to trouble (Proverbs 17:20). • Speech that brings wisdom is like pure water (Proverbs 18:4). • Foolish speech brings contention—and possibly violence (Proverbs 18:6). Taming our tongue is possible with God's help, but it takes effort and discpline. Let's fulfill James 3:2 and strive not to stumble in word. Instead, let's move forward to become perfect Christians, able to bridle our tongues. UN