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Taming The Tongue

By J. Stephen Lang -- It doesn't require an outright lie to harm another person. A little insinuation, a "hint," is often enough. Once a bit of "information" starts on the gossip grapevine, it rarely improves.

The Bible has much to say about our use -- or abuse -- of the tongue. We write gossip off as a relatively minor sin, but the Word of God takes a different view.

Does any of you want to live a life that is long and good? Then watch your tongue! Keep your lips from telling lies! Turn away from evil and do good. Work hard at living in peace with others.

The eyes of the LORD watch over those who do right; his ears are open to their cries for help.

Psalm 34:12-15

Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing.

Proverbs 12:18

I will not tolerate people who slander their neighbors. I will not endure conceit and pride.

Psalm 101:5

As surely as a wind from the north brings rain, so a gossiping tongue causes anger!

Proverbs 25:23

Fire goes out for lack of fuel, and quarrels disappear when gossip stops. A quarrelsome person starts fights as easily as hot embers light charcoal or fire lights wood.

Proverbs 26:20

Jesus had much to say about the tongue. He was aware that people who are outwardly "religious" could abstain from the "big" sins like adultery and drunkenness. Yet these same people could do immense harm through their speech.

"A tree is identified by its fruit. Make a tree good, and its fruit will be good. Make a tree bad, and its fruit will be bad. You brood of snakes! How could evil men like you speak what is good and right? For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. A good person produces good words from a good heart, and an evil person produces evil words from an evil heart. And I tell you this, that you must give an account on judgment day of every idle word you speak. The words you say now reflect your fate then; either you will be justified by them or you will be condemned."

Matthew 12:33-37

"Evil words come from an evil heart and defile the person who says them. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all other sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. These are what defile you."

Matthew 15:18-20

The classic passage on controlling the tongue is in James's letter. It ought to be posted on every Christian's bathroom mirror so that we could read it every morning before ever opening our mouths.

Those who control their tongues can also control themselves in every other way. We can make a large horse turn around and go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. And a tiny rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot wants it to go, even though the winds are strong. So also, the tongue is a small thing, but what enormous damage it can do. A tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is full of wickedness that can ruin your whole life. It can turn the entire course of your life into a blazing flame of destruction, for it is set on fire by hell itself.

People can tame all kinds of animals and birds and reptiles and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is an uncontrollable evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it breaks out into curses against those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!

James 3:2-10

How much gossip and verbal cruelty goes under the name of "constructive criticism"? In his letter, James makes it plain that criticizing fellow Christians -- either to their face or behind their back -- is unChristian behavior.

Don't speak evil against each other, my dear brothers and sisters. If you criticize each other and condemn each other, then you are criticizing and condemning God's law. But you are not a judge who can decide whether the law is right or wrong. Your job is to obey it. God alone, who made the law, can rightly judge among us. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to condemn your neighbor?

James 4:11-12

The Book of God's Promises -- Copyright, 1999 by J. Stephen Lang. All rights reserved, used with permission.

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