Power in the Tongue: How to Use it Wisely
The Mighty Influence of Our Words
Our tongue wields an extraordinary ability—to mend and to wound, to uplift and to criticize, to bring blessings and to utter curses. It holds the potential to both end life and breathe life into existence. The tongue serves as the vessel that unveils the genuine intentions of our hearts, akin to the profound words in Psalm 45:1, "My tongue is the pen of a ready writer." Remarkably, it frequently exposes our thoughts and desires even before they come into existence.
A Glimpse into Intentions
Verbal abuse often lays the groundwork for physical harm, with words delivering their blow before fists ever do. Similarly, when emotions brim with joy, they can surge uncontrollably. I recall moments when Jesus advised discretion, yet exuberance and gratitude couldn't be reined in and erupted.
Impact of Spoken Words
In my childhood, I often heard a little rhyme that was meant to shield us from the pain caused by hurtful words: "sticks and stones may break our bones but words will never hurt us." Though I can't trace its origin, it seems crafted to offer solace against verbal assaults from those who aimed to wound us. Yet, even in my youthful innocence, that sing-song refrain failed to provide the comfort it promised. Its echoes still resonate in my mind, intertwined with the cutting taunts of those whose insults carved deep into my sense of self-worth, leaving behind scars of unworthiness and self-doubt that persist to this day.
It's a reality we encounter far too often—a multitude of individuals navigating life burdened by the anguish inflicted by the arrows of others' tongues. Some wounds are deliberately inflicted, while others are a result of thoughtlessness. The undeniable truth is that the power embedded within spoken words has the potential to inflict lasting pain. This isn't a matter to be taken lightly; it demands our attention and mindfulness.
"Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman. They said, 'Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us as well?' And the Lord heard it... And the anger of the Lord burned against them, and He departed. When the cloud had withdrawn from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, as white as snow."
Numbers 12:1-2, 9-10 (LSB)
"Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, 'We have heard Stephen speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.' So they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came up to him and dragged him away and brought him before the Council. They put forward false witnesses who said, 'This man incessantly speaks against this holy place and the Law.'"
Acts 6:11-13 (LSB)
In the book of Proverbs 6, it's highlighted that a lying tongue and a false witness are intensely disliked, even detested, by God. This condemnation is mentioned alongside those who shed innocent blood with their hands. Frequently, we echo and circulate information without verifying its authenticity. A passing whisper about someone reaches our ears, and without much thought, we pass it along the chain. Rarely do we ponder how our words might affect the individual in question. Interestingly, we become indignant when we find ourselves at the receiving end of such talk. I'll admit, I'm equally culpable; I'm not here to cast stones. What I believe matters is awareness.
Guiding Scriptures: James 1:26-27
Scripture expresses the profound responsibility of our speech in James 1:26-27, reminding us that our words should be a reflection of our love for God and our love for our neighbors. Considering this perspective, we realize that we should intentionally and carefully utilize the power within our tongues, acknowledging their potential for both harm and healing.
If you claim to be religious but don't control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.
James 1:26-27 (NLT)
Exploring the Sins of the Tongue: A Closer Look
As believers, it's essential to be aware of the various sins that are committed through the use of the mouth and tongue. Let's delve into some key scriptures that shed light on these transgressions:
|Lying||Making false statements with the intent to deceive or mislead.||
Proverbs 6:16-19 - "There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood..."
Colossians 3:9 - "Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices."
|False Witness and Perjury||Bearing false witness or making false oaths in legal or moral matters.||
Exodus 20:16 - "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor."
Proverbs 19:5 - "A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will not escape."
Zechariah 8:17 - "Do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these things I hate, declares the Lord."
Gossip and Profanity
|Gossip and Slander||Spreading harmful or unverified information about others.||
Proverbs 11:13 - "Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered."
Proverbs 20:19 - "Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler."
James 4:11 - "Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge."
Slanderer: Making false statements to damage reputation.
Backbiter: Speaking negatively behind someone's back.
Gossiper: Habitually sharing unverified information.
Talebearer: Spreading private stories without permission.
|Profanity and Unwholesome Talk||Using offensive, vulgar, or harmful language.||
Ephesians 4:29 - "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear."
Colossians 3:8 - "But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth."
More Transgressions of the Tongue
|Foolish Talk and Crude Jokes||Engaging in senseless, obscene, or inappropriate speech.||Ephesians 5:4 - "Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving."|
|Cursing||Speaking harmful words or invoking harm upon others.||
James 3:9-10 - "With it [the tongue] 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."
Romans 12:14 - "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them."
|Boasting and Pride||Exaggerating achievements or showing arrogance.||
James 3:5 - "So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!"
James 4:13-14 - "Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit'— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes."
|Blasphemy and Cursing God||Disrespecting or insulting God.||Exodus 20:7 - "You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain."|
|Quarreling and Arguing||Engaging in conflicts or disputes.||
Proverbs 17:14 - "The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out."
Proverbs 26:21 - "As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife."
Proverbs 15:1 - "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."
|Speaking Evil of Others||Spreading harmful or negative comments about others.||James 4:11-12 - "Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge."|
When Words Wound: Stress, Anxiety, and Depression
Words might seem intangible, but don't let that fool you. The aftermath they leave behind wields a tremendous impact on our emotions, physical well-being, and even our spirituality. The fallout from wielding words recklessly can result in stress, anxiety, depression, and a deep sense of unworthiness. It's like a slap across the face, except these bruises aren't always immediately visible. Think about lies and gossip—they don't just disappear. Instead, they breed mistrust, shame, and a slew of other negative feelings.
That's why biblical wisdom advises us to be measured in our speech, to pause before we let words flow. Let's saturate our words with love, molding our tongues into instruments that uplift and glorify God. The phrase "power in the tongue" beautifully embodies this idea.
How to Use Your Tongue Wisely
I consistently require reminders on the art of using words wisely. My aim is to wield the power within my tongue to magnify God and uplift those in my midst. Admittedly, there are times when I stumble, much like everyone else. That is why I truly value those friendly prompts that keep me conscious of my communication. I've compiled some valuable tips that can steer us in using our words wisely.
1. **Choose Words Carefully:** Ephesians 4:29 encourages us to use words that are helpful and beneficial for building others up. Before speaking, consider whether your words will positively impact the listener.
2. **Practice Active Listening:** James 1:19 advises us to be quick to listen and slow to speak. Engage in active listening to understand others before offering your own words, showing respect and empathy.
3. **Speak with Kindness:** Proverbs 15:4 and Proverbs 16:24 highlight the power of gracious and soothing words. Strive to use language that uplifts and brings healing, rather than words that crush or hurt.
4. **Exercise Self-Control:** Proverbs 21:23 reminds us that guarding our mouths and tongues prevents unnecessary trouble. Practice self-control by pausing before speaking, especially in heated or emotional moments.
5. **Cultivate Graceful Communication:** Colossians 4:6 encourages us to let our conversations be full of grace. Approach discussions with humility, patience, and a desire to understand, ensuring your words reflect kindness and respect.
Implementing these practical steps can help us navigate conversations with wisdom and empathy, using our tongues in ways that honor God and positively impact those around us.