|Volume 25 Number 9 September 2023
Studies found that we speak on average about 7,000 words each day. That is 49,000 words each week and 2,555,000 words each year. We need to use our speech to communicate, but with so many words coming out of our mouths, we should also be careful. The Bible has much to say about our tongues and how we use them. There are positive uses of the tongue in which the Bible encourages us to engage. There are negative uses of our tongues against which the Bible warns us. Here are a few warnings about our tongues from Scripture that we would be wise to heed.
Our Words Will Be Judged
On one occasion, Jesus’ opponents accused Him of casting out demons by the power of Satan (Matthew 12:24). Jesus showed them the inconsistency in their logic, and then, He issued one of His strongest warnings about the way we use our tongues (Matthew 12:25-35). Jesus said, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36-37 ESV). Based on Jesus’ declaration that our words will play an important factor in the Judgment, we should be careful. We will appear before God and will be judged for everything we have done, whether it was good or bad – including our speech (2 Corinthians 5:10).
We may not give much attention to the words we speak, but Jesus taught that we should. Does the idea of “every careless word” you have spoken being brought into the Judgment terrify you? If it does, then we should be more careful and cautious when we speak. Words are easy to say and impossible to retrieve once spoken (Proverbs 13:3). Death and life are in the power of our tongues (Proverbs 18:21). If we want to keep our souls from trouble, we must learn to keep control of our tongue (Proverbs 21:23). Wicked people are ensnared by their words, but the just escape trouble (Proverbs 12:13). What a shame to be eternally lost because we could not control our speech! Controlling our speech may involve saying fewer words or weighing our words before we speak them, but it will be worth it (Proverbs 25:11).
Inconsistent Speech Is Condemned
James is a practical book that addresses daily Christian living. It includes some helpful things to say about the way we use our speech. If we claim to be religious and fail to control our tongues, our religion is useless (James 1:26). We are to speak as those who will be judged by the law of liberty (James 2:12). Though the tongue is a small body part among our members, its power should not be underestimated (James 3:3-6). As difficult as it is to tame the tongue, it is something God wants us to do as Christians (James 3:2). We often use our tongues to sing God’s praises and to pray to Him, but beware if we also use them to curse others or to tear them down. James recorded, “With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:9-10).
Reading James’ warnings and rebukes for those who misuse their speech is a sobering exercise for me. We should all evaluate our speech and see if we are violating what James says should not be characteristic of Christians. One of the things Jesus hated most was hypocrisy (Matthew 23:13, 15, 23, 25). Hypocrisy, as defined by Scripture, plays a role. Hypocrisy is to pretend to be one way but to not actually be sincere. Is our speech hypocritical? Do we pretend to be pious and devout in our prayers, but in actuality, we are slanderers, backbiters and gossips (Ephesians 4:29)? Do we sing about brotherly love but fail to build each other up with our words? We are to encourage each other daily. One way we can do this is with the words that we say (Hebrews 3:13).
Blessing and cursing should not come from the same mouth, just like freshwater and bitter water should not come from the same spring (James 3:11). How is our speech when we get angry (Ephesians 4:26)? How do we talk when there are no other Christians around? How do we address those in our homes when we are frustrated? What do we type or endorse on social media? Do we listen and watch things that may plant seeds of bad speech in our minds (Philippians 4:8)? Whenever a Christian opens his or her mouth, God expects the speech to be seasoned with salt (Colossians 4:6) because we are the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13). When our speech is inconsistent, it not only hurts our influence with men on earth, but it disappoints our God in Heaven!
Telling the Truth
The Truth sets us free (John 8:32). We are sanctified by the Truth as well (John 17:17). God’s people must not only believe the Truth, likewise, Christians speak truth as well. Lying will send us to Hell just as much as any other sin for which we fail to repent (Revelation 21:8). As we have put on the new man in Christ, we are to put lying to death (Ephesians 4:25; Colossians 3:9). God’s people are to buy the Truth and refuse to sell it (Proverbs 23:23).
In a world of fake news and misinformation, we need to be careful not to contribute to the problem. The things we say on any subject should be factual, beneficial and trustworthy. Sometimes the world approves of telling white lies or tells us that it is okay to lie about small things, but God never endorses dishonesty.
We need to speak the truth in every area of our lives. We should speak the truth in matters of religion because we know the Truth saves people (1 Timothy 2:4). They who are lost need to know what the Bible says so that they can obey it and be saved. Be truthful with our friends and loved ones. It is tempting to tell them what we know they want to hear rather than what they need to hear. One of the saddest stories in the Old Testament is where an older prophet deceived a young prophet, and as a result, the young prophet died (1 Kings 13:18). Lies carry consequences. We do no one a favor when we withhold the truth from them or misinform them. The Devil is the father of lies, but our Father is a God of truth (Isaiah 65:16; John 8:44). We should guard our tongues against lying and be committed to always telling the truth.
We all fall short on occasion in the use of our tongues and could better use our speech to uplift others and praise God. If we keep these divine reminders before us, they may help us to guard our speech (Psalm 39:1). God has blessed us with a mouth to speak. Let us use it in a way that does good and not harm. Let us say with the Psalmist, “…my mouth will not transgress” (Psalm 17:3)!