Taming the Tongue

Words can wound, and words can heal. There is great power in the spoken word.

By God’s grace, I grew up in a family where my parents encouragedus children, rather than putting us down. I grew up believing I could succeed by working hard in life and applying myself in school because I had parents and teachers who affirmed those things in my life. Unfortunately, too often children grow up in homes where their parents’ anger gets the best of them, and they call their children names like ugly or stupid or loser.

There is great power in the spoken word.

Scripture affirms this very thing. “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”(Genesis 1:3 NIV) God spokecreation into existence!

Esau was enraged when Jacob pretended to be him and stole the blessing a father passes on to his eldest son. He begged Isaac to bless him, but Isaac responded, “I have made him lord over you and have made all his relatives his servants, and I have sustained him with grain and new wine. So what can I possibly do for you, my son?”(Genesis 27:37 NIV) The words had been spoken and the blessing could not be revoked. The words carried their own power.

God even gave us the power of confirming our salvation through our words. “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”(Romans 10:9 NIV)

In the book of James, he affirms the danger of a deadly tongue. Like a bit that controls a powerful horse or a rudder that steers a huge ship or a spark that sets an entire forest on fire, the tongue has power beyond its size. “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.”(James 3:9 NIV)

The thing about what comes out of our mouths that can bless or curse is this: Jesus tells us it is what is in our heartsthatcomes out our mouths.Anger and selfishness and bitterness and spite in our hearts comes out in sarcasm and snippiness and cussing from our mouths. James is right. In our own strength, it can be very difficult to tame the tongue.

But tame it we must, if we are to honor Jesus, who came to speak lifeinto us! “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. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”(Ephesians 4:29-30 NIV)

Did you catch that connection? Unwholesome talk that does not build others up grievesthe Holy Spirit. And it is the Holy Spirit who can help us tame our tongues!

How about praying this prayer today: “Jesus, please change my heart so that what comes out of my mouth may be only what honors YOU. Tame my tongue and use it only for good.”Then listen for the prompting of the Holy Spirit to speak up with encouraging words, and the checking of the Holy Spirit to prevent harsh, unwholesome words from being spoken. Try it for a day, then a week, then a month, and see if God changes the way we speak in a powerfully positive way.

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