Thursday, February 23, 2006

Taming the Tongue (James 3)

Taming the tongue. A statement like that conjures up many images. Maybe it brings to mind something horrible you heard someone saying in the hallways of school. Maybe it reminds you of a time in which you said something you later regretted. Whatever it is, James reminds us it is no small task to tame one’s tongue. And I think we see that in a day-to-day basis in our encounters with people.

TV shows (whether news or sitcoms) are chalked full of boldfaced people who say whatever comes to their mind. Might I even dare say…we enjoy that kind of entertainment? What’s better than watching two people duke it out with words? (Oh I know, two people duking it out with their fists!) Imagine what would be said of the Hollywood star that never retorted back at someone who intentionally belittled them with words? They would be laughed at for not responding. They would be laughed at for taming their tongue. They would be laughed at for obeying the Word of God.

On a more personal level, I find it hard to not snap back at someone who lashes out at me verbally (even if I don’t verbally assault them, I do it in my mind). But in studying James, I’ve been convicted (by the Holy Spirit). This has led to a discovery in my life of two things.

1. I can’t control my tongue. There are too many occasions where I say something only to regret it an hour later. I look at the situations I face and easily see I don’t measure up to what God desires. Case and point: Jesus Christ. What a knock on the head when we see God Himself taking insults, beatings, and being spit upon by His creation and He never once retaliates physically or verbally (see Mark 15:15,29,31, Matt 27:30). It would have angered me and surely I would have said or done something, it broke His heart and He remained silent. This brings out a noticeable difference between Jesus the Christ and myself (not that it would have been hard to find any in the first place), He can control His tongue, and I can’t.

2. I need help in controlling my tongue. Who will come to our aid in such a devastating situation? For us Christians, it is not who will come, but Who is already there. The Holy Spirit living inside all believers (Ephesians 1:13) will give us strength to hold our tongues. What do we need to do? Surrender (and sometimes it is very hard) our will and what we want to do to Him. In turn, our will is replaced with God’s will. I challenge you to do that this week. When someone rips into you verbally, pause for a moment, remain silent, and surrender any inclination to strike back to God. Do it and see what happens. I double dog dare you!

Practical Advice for taming the tongue

1) Think before you speak. You don’t have to instantly snap back at someone when they say something harsh to you.
2) If you don’t have anything nice to say, say nothing. It is better to walk away from a situation saying nothing then to add to it. (Check out Ephesians 4:29)
3) Begin each day with a simple prayer: God help me to watch what I say to others.
4) If you hear something negative being said about someone, walk away. If your friends ask you why you did that, tell them you don’t want to be a part of unwholesome talk. (Ephesians 4:29)
5) Practice the spiritual discipline of silence. Try going a whole day without saying a word. Try only listening.
6) If you have something unwholesome, negative, or bad to say about someone, tell God first. Try going to God with everything, even your thoughts. Do this before talking to someone else. Live by the principle: Everything I say or write I’m able to share with God first.
7) Remember that you will have to give an account on Judgment day for every careless word you speak. (Matthew 12:36) So, no matter what you say or where you say it (even if it’s a harsh comment said anonymously on the internet), you will be held accountable.If you do or have messed up with words, go to the person and apologize. Even if they don’t forgive you (sometimes it may be hard for a person to forgive you), God will.

Your thoughts on the issue of taming the tongue?
Any other practical advice you could offer?


yourblogreader said...

Today's blog was one of your best! As you know, the tongue speaks from the heart and is only as good or as bad as what lies within us. If your "spiritual heart" is off beat, your tongue will reflect this. It is important to keep the heart clean and there are many ways to do this. Some of the pratical things I do to tame my tongue are:
1. listen to other Christians testimonies of how they worked through problems
2. pray
3. read the bible and other Christian books
4. witness whenever possible

Christy said...

Tim- This issue has always been one that I struggled with. Not because I wanted to say mean things to or about people, but I always wanted to be real. God has been showing me, over the past couple months, that it is better to not say anything at all then to hurt someone with my words. Out of the heart the mouth speaks.

slony said...

I agree, another excellent post Tim.
Along the same lines as the comment from
'yourblogreader', I would like to suggest that we closley monitor the influences that we allow into our lives (granted, some you have no control over).
As you mentioned, Hollywood loves to tell/show us how we should act, but does that line up with the example that Jesus set? Perhaps taking in that kind of poor example day-in and day-out can be dangerous to us as Christians...

Cecily-Sue said...

This blog was really relates to me... I don't really say much of what I think when I am insulted or when people are gossiping...but I do think about what I would say, and then I normally tell people that are close to me what I am thinking...and this lesson made me realize that God is close to me and he can help to hold my tongue
Thanks For The Awesome Lesson

Tim Sheets said...

Thanks for the comments!

I appreciated the advice and suggestions on ways to tame the tongue. (I'll have to add those to the list)

I'm amazed at how much damage words can cause. As a teen I don't know if I fully realized that. I remember in high school that I looked up to and respected the person who always spoke their mind. (I wanted to be able to do that!) But, now that seems really immature and rude.

In light of Christ and His life...I just can't see myself ripping somebody up with words and not feeling convicted about it. If anybody had a right to put people in their place with words, it would have been Him (Jesus). But, He was full of compassion and mercy. Amazing to think about!


yourblogreader said...
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