“For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.” James 3.7-10
How easy it is – even in Christian company, not to speak of when we are with those who do not know the Lord – to lapse into all sorts of shameful speech. Complaining about this or that; airing someone else’s dirty laundry; bickering; murmuring; criticizing. Indeed, the book of James says that we are all guilty of these sorts of things, in one way or another. “No one can tame the tongue!”
But, O, how we must try with all the grace the Lord will give us! We must use all the means God has granted to keep these sinful lips of our under control – even though we will often fail. Let me make a few suggestions to myself … and hope they will help you, too.
Be “slow to speak” – James 1.19 says we should “be quick to hear, slow to speak.” In other words, be a listener first of all … and speak only when you have something valuable to say. This is one fantastic way to cut back on the number of sinful words you utter – simply to cut back on the total number of words you utter!
“Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you” – So says Colossians 3.16. And, if we will fill our hearts with the word of God, we will also be able to fill our mouths (still on Colossians 3.16) with instructive words, with “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs”, and “thankfulness … to God”. There is little room left for sinful words in a mouth like that!
Ask God to fill you with the Holy Spirit – To “be filled with the Spirit” enables you to sing and make “melody with your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5.18-19). That sort of Spirit filled happiness in God will fill a mouth with grace, not grumbling … with praise, not pride.
Confess the sin of your lips – “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1.9). Do you want to wash out that filthy mouth? The way to do so is not mainly through resolves, but through constant confession and returning to Christ, the “fountain … opened … for sin and for impurity” (Zechariah 13.1). When we admit our faults, God offers both forgiveness and help to change. So the saying is true – ‘Confession is good for the soul.’ It is also good for the tongue!
Consider Jesus – He “committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth” (1 Peter 2.22). Isn’t it interesting that, when Peter says that Jesus was sinless, the one specific example he gives is that He was sinless in His speech? What a lesson for us! Let’s gaze upon Jesus. Let’s admire Him. Let’s adore Him. As we do, God will gradually make us just like Him – tongue and all.