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Bible verses about Tongue, Control of
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Proverbs 26:28

One could assume that the intent of this verse could be paraphrased, "Only a person who hates another would deliberately wound or hurt someone by lies." However, this verse really suggests, upon closer reading, that the very act of saying something negative about another will automatically reinforce this belief.

In explaining this principle of reinforcement, psychologist George Weinberg states, "Every time you act, you add strength to the motivating idea behind what you've done." Weinberg describes graphically how hatred and resentment can be built from scratch:

At a party Ralph makes an offhand remark critical of a certain movie. When he first makes his remark, his attitude toward the movie is actually mild. He may even have liked it on the whole, and his remarks merely to display his cleverness. But he gets a surprise. Instead of just smiling at the gibe, someone at the party contradicts it. Ralph answers back. The other man rebuts again. Ralph attacks another aspect of the movie. The man is unmoved. Ralph tears into the other man's notorious bad taste. Ralph's basic attitude toward the movie has changed. Now he really hates it. At the next party he goes to, almost the first subject he brings up will be the movie, to attack it thoroughly.

As the hatred grows, Ralph's personality and character become sullen and ugly. His own tongue contaminates his very being. James 3:6 reveals, "[The tongue is a] world of wickedness set among our members, contaminating and depraving the whole body" (The Amplified Bible). Verse 8 continues, "It is a restless (undisciplined, irreconcilable) evil, full of deadly poison."

David F. Maas
Purging the Rumor Bug from the Body of Christ


 

Philippians 4:8

What we think about will reveal itself in what we say. A mind fed by godly wisdom can follow this advice and control that most wild of all members, the tongue. As we grow in that great wisdom, our words will become fresh and reliable. We will lose the sharp edge from our tongues. Our speech will not be duplicitous, like grapes growing on a fig tree or bitter waters emerging from a freshwater spring.

Once we emerge out of the ruts of human habit in our communication, we will truly begin to express what is true, noble, pure, lovely, and good. Our words will convey virtue and offer praise to God, uplifting those who hear us. As James ends his third chapter, "Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace" (James 3:18), so will be the results of our efforts. Righteousness will come to fruition in an atmosphere of peace.

Staff
Are You Sharp-Tongued? (Part Two)


 

James 1:19-20

God wants us to be quick and ready to hear Him and His truth. As disciples of Christ, we should always remember that we are engaged in learning from God the Father and Jesus Christ, and a good attitude is paramount in getting the most out of our lessons.

Being "slow to wrath" is learning to restrain our tempers and any wrong attitudes. Those that allow anger to trouble them have the tendency to break the law rather than keep it and to contend with ministers and brethren. When one allows wrath or a poor attitude into his thinking, doubts about God's instructions creep in, and disobedience often results. The wrath of man will not produce the right course of life and love of the truth that God requires.

The person who jumps to angry conclusions is often one who hears God's Word from the Bible but finds that it does not fit with his thinking or background. For whatever reason, he initially rejects what he hears. This is a hasty attitude, and it is one God does not like.

» Proverbs 14:29: He who is slow to wrath has great understanding, but he who is impulsive [hasty of spirit, KJV] exalts folly.
» Proverbs 21:5: The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, but those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty.
» Proverbs 29:20: Do you see a man hasty in his words? There is more hope of a fool than for him.
» Ecclesiastes 5:2: Do not be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, and you on the earth; therefore let your words be few.

God understands the changes demanded of us by our calling. He knows our backgrounds and that we have much to learn in following His way. He knows some conflicts will catch us off guard; there will be times when it comes down to His way versus our way.

John O. Reid (1930-2016)
Having a Right Attitude


 

James 3:1

James begins with a piece of general advice that leads to his main discussion of the use of the tongue. God holds us all accountable for what we have learned as well as how we instruct others. In the various situations of life, we are often both receiving instruction and giving instruction, so he warns that we need to examine ourselves closely and realize that God holds those accountable who would instruct or correct others, whether toward the brethren, our mates, our children, or our friends.

Staff
Are You Sharp-Tongued? (Part One)


 

James 3:1-8

What hope do we have as men if "no man can tame the tongue"? Mothers once washed their children's mouths out with soap for using bad language or expressing verbal disrespect. The entertainment media have made such words part of our households, schools, and workplaces. James' admonishment is not a soap-and-water application or a fatherly reprimand. His statements are blunt instruments: The tongue is as a vicious animal, whose words are capable of causing ultimate destruction, and it is as a creature of such monstrous character that no man can tame it.

As a kid, I loved to play "Cowboys and Indians," and when I heard "no man can tame the tongue," I imagined a tongue running around like a loose calf, with a cowboy on horseback riding frantically, trying to rope it down and tame it. It is a silly scene, but even now when I think about it, how accurately it pictures the feeling of trying to run after my own words and tame them after I have let them loose!

Staff
Are You Sharp-Tongued? (Part One)


 

James 3:2

We all make mistakes—and probably a majority of them are verbal. The challenge before us is to learn to control our words and use them effectively in dealing with others. For followers of Christ, "effective use of words" is using them as Christ and the Father do. If we do anything less, we stumble and run the risk of offending.

So great is this challenge that, if we can master our tongue, we have in essence come to master our entire bodies. We could conclude from this that our bodies function as they are instructed. We instruct our bodies and minds through words, whether spoken or thought. In other words, the mind speaks, and the body follows. We lead ourselves, as well as others, with our words.

Staff
Are You Sharp-Tongued? (Part One)


 

James 3:2-10

For years, I read these scriptures, and I always thought, "I'm not starting forest fires with my words. I'm not viciously devouring people like a roaring beast. I can take this in stride and not worry so much about examining this. After all, these examples are for the extremes: the Adolf Hitlers, the serial criminal minds, the hardened and bitter sinners who retreat from humanity. This isn't me!"

God sometimes focuses our minds on the things we are guilty of by allowing us to experience the same behaviors from others. David did not see himself as he was behaving and affecting others until Nathan described to him another man's behavior (II Samuel 12:1-4). David was so outraged by the man's gross actions and attitude that he, as king, declared the death penalty on him (verses 5-6). Had this been an actual individual, chances are David would have pursued the matter to see the man brought to justice! However, the man he judged as worthy of death was none other than himself (verse 7).

We experience similar lessons. We are at times brought into the company of people who are offensive to us, whose behavior hurts us, and whose words can cut us and wound us, because something in the experience will teach us what we need to learn. God is allowing us to experience ourselves.

We chuckle at times, observing how someone known for gossiping will howl in dismay when he is gossiped about, or how a person often critical of others is intolerant of criticism directed toward himself. We say about teasing, "Don't give it unless you can take it!" Similarly, we enjoy people who are warm and friendly, and we feel warm and friendly when we are around them. Happy people tend to attract other happy people, while bitter or angry people often find another unhappy person with whom they can share their complaints.

A deeper principle can be employed here: If we look at others' behaviors, we can learn to see ourselves. Job's friends had this opportunity. They saw Job going through his calamities, how miserable he was, and in their care for him, they did their best to find his fault and help him solve his dilemma. In the end, God simply dismissed these three friends and all their long-winded speeches because they failed to recognize the very thing God gave them opportunity to see: They failed to see themselves in Job.

Job was not singled out for this experience because he was Job. He represents mankind, blinded by himself and unable to see the reality of God. Even today, many centuries later, we examine the life and thoughts of Job in an effort to see ourselves in his shoes; we try to learn from his experience by exposing the same faults within us. This aids us by allowing us both to see what we might miss and to change what is incompatible with our Creator.

How often do these opportunities emerge for us to see ourselves in the actions of others? In the past decade, we have had many opportunities to witness the effects of deceitful men upon trusting and unsuspecting people. We have seen people shift allegiances and loyalties but deny doing so by their words. We have seen couples speak words of lifelong devotion only to cast them aside for a new attraction. We have seen friends and family who expressed the deepest of commitments to one another both deny those relationships and turn against one another. We have seen hearts broken by sarcasm and neglect. We have seen the crushing effects of criticism upon those needing reassurance and encouragement.

Most of us do not escape life without being deeply touched by such actions from others. But how incredibly sobering it is to see ourselves in these actions of others, to realize that we are guilty of the very things that may have hurt us deeply! We, too, are responsible for spreading the flames of a fire that devours and destroys all in its path. The evil of our tongues is as limitless as the evil James describes.

A sharp tongue is a weapon, no less as effective as a pointed spear or a sword honed to a razor's edge. A sharp tongue has no place among the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). It does not express love, spread joy or promote peace. It shows no patience, kindness or goodness in its words. It betrays faithfulness and gentleness, and most of all, it shows no measure of self-control.

My sharp tongue has been a contradiction to the convictions I have expressed nearly all my life. I never saw it until I had to come face to face with the jabs, slices, and pricks of other sharp tongues, and to feel the fires they started within me. I would beg the Father for understanding, of why such communication should exist and why I should receive it with such bitterness—until I finally saw, as David did, that I am the guilty one.

Staff
Are You Sharp-Tongued? (Part One)


 

James 3:3-4

James makes three interesting comparisons. First, the horse has historically been considered symbolic of strength, endurance, speed, gracefulness, agility, beauty, and loyalty. At certain times in history, men have preferred to be buried next to their horses rather than their wives! How many countless times has the horse been the deciding factor in battle, in travel, in survival? Yet this powerful animal can be rendered as docile as a puppy by placing a small bit in its mouth, through which it learns to obey every command its master might give it.

Second, the wind drives and tosses giant ships on the seas as if they were toys. Wind, especially at sea, evokes the fierceness of war, raging into every crevice and overturning everything in its path. Calm it down, however, and it becomes a gentle, cooling, refreshing breeze. Gentle winds can bring pleasant fragrances and invigorating fresh air. Having grown up near the Pacific Ocean, nothing quite stirs me like a fresh wind off the sea. Words, like wind, can be unbelievable forces of destruction that leave nothing and no one standing in their paths. But tamed, slowed down, and controlled, they can be refreshing, fragrant breezes across our faces.

Third, rudders manipulate the course of immense ocean vessels with a slight movement of a pilot's hand. Since it is underwater and aft, the rudder of a ship does its work unseen. A passenger is ignorant of its movements most of the time. Yet, when it is in proper working order, the rudder holds more power over the ship than the wind. The wind will blow, toss, even destroy the ship's rigging, but the rudder guides the ship exactly where it directs. James wants us to contemplate—as horses are controlled by bits in the mouth and ships by rudders below the stern—what tools we might use to control our words, which can be as dynamic as a horse or fierce as the wind. Learning to use that bit and rudder is the challenge!

Staff
Are You Sharp-Tongued? (Part One)


 

James 3:5-6

James warns that the size of the tongue is no measure of the power it wields. Just as the tiniest of sparks can ignite a great forest fire, the smallest of words, unwisely spoken, can cause immeasurable harm.

Uncontrolled and untamed, without interference, a fire can spread to leave absolutely nothing untouched, unscorched, and unaffected. It is startling to think that fire, of itself, could erase all life from the earth! Were it to burn and spread unaffected by rain, wind, or the efforts of man, it could conceivably cover the earth and burn all life and all oxygen from our world.

Anyone who has witnessed a forest fire and seen flames leap from one treetop to another can grasp the traveling power of fire. James wants us to capture this graphic vision of the potential destruction our words perpetuated in sin can achieve. The iniquity created and perpetuated by words can spread to the ultimate of all damages: death. Solomon writes, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit" (Proverbs 18:21). Does man have any other ability that can cause such a degree of devastation?

Staff
Are You Sharp-Tongued? (Part One)


 

James 3:9-10

Most of us do not spend our time speaking blessings continually or pronouncing curses without end; our words and lives are spent somewhere in the middle. We may be nice most of the time, yet on occasion our words will fly out in anger or defensiveness.

No one likes to think of himself as an uncaged brute, wreaking havoc, hurt, and destruction on his fellow man by the words he utters. Poets have long expressed themselves with terms of love and adoration. Great orators stir men and women to courage and confidence. No individual truly wants to cut his loved ones down with his words as with a sharp scythe. James makes it clear, though, that we each possess the ability to effect such destruction on each other's lives.

Staff
Are You Sharp-Tongued? (Part One)


 

James 3:11-12

In examining ourselves, perhaps the critical question is, "How much salt can be in the water before it tastes salty?" If our words hurt or cut others down only on occasion, does that make us guilty of all that James describes? How much confidence would we have in the kitchen faucet if we never knew whether we would receive salt water or fresh water from it? Would we fill a glass and drink it down or carefully test it each time?

When I was in school, a common practical joke was to dump salt in someone's milk or water, watch him unsuspectingly drink it down and chortle gleefully when the shock emerged on his face as he discovered what he had just consumed. When it happened to me, it was indeed a shock! No matter how many times I had watched it done to another, or participated in doing it, or how hard I laughed at another's "getting it," when my turn for a "salting" took place, it was totally unexpected and entirely unpleasant.

It happens like this in our relationships. We expect to trust one another, and we expect the "waters" of our words to be refreshing, to be pleasant, to be loving and positive. When we are hit with the "salt"—words spoken in anger, gossip, merciless criticism, or caustic sarcasm toward us when we may need some kinder attention—it is always a shock and always leaves us feeling distaste in our mouths and betrayal in our hearts.

All of us are capable of all these kinds of communication. We have to ask ourselves: Do I send both fresh and bitter water from my mouth? Does my tongue produce both figs and olives?

Staff
Are You Sharp-Tongued? (Part One)


 

James 3:13-18

The apostle reveals here the nature of "the bit and the rudder" that control the horse and the ship. It is spiritual wisdom and understanding that descend upon us directly from God above that empowers us to keep our tongue in check. As earthly men, we have no means or strength to control this wild beast that resides in our tongue and expresses itself in our words. But as children of God, endowed with the power of His spirit and wisdom of His character, we can gain control over this member within. Not only that, we can use it in service to His will and purpose. If we examine our words and run them carefully through the filter of the fruit of the Spirit, we stand a far better chance of releasing the fresh waters that give life and restraining the salt waters that cause destruction.

Staff
Are You Sharp-Tongued? (Part Two)


 

James 3:13-18

One way to begin taming our tongues is to speak in meekness. Meekness is not weakness. It is knowing at all times where we stand with God, fully realizing who He is and the nature of His power in contrast to ourselves, His creation. Joshua cried out in confidence for the army of Israel to go forward; His confidence was not in himself or his leadership but totally in his awareness of God's purpose in his life, God's law to live by, and God's sovereignty over him. He was, after all, clay in the Potter's hands. If we keep this in mind, we will never have cause to feel better, more righteous, more successful, or more honorable than another.

Meekness is the ability to esteem others better than ourselves and to allow God to use us as He wills. II Timothy 2:20 shows us that God will honor whom He will. To seek honor for ourselves or to feel worthy of honor is a dead end, and it will taint how we communicate to others. We will naturally look down on them, disrespect them, overlook them, and criticize them.

Test: If we have experienced dishonor, perhaps we need to look closely to see where we have dishonored others. We all stand guilty as charged.

Staff
Are You Sharp-Tongued? (Part Two)


 

James 3:14-16

I like to tell stories, and my family has told me more than once that I sometimes exaggerate things. I always justified it as good humor and in fun. I have come to learn, however, the exaggerations, boasts, or little white lies that "spice up" stories or humor can often hurt and damage others. Sometimes someone hearing the story remembers the situation, and it was not as funny or, from his perspective, happened some other way.

Boasting is usually successful only when another is put down, and though everyone may laugh, the victim may be recoiling from what feels like jabs and insults. Sarcasm and teasing often produce the same results. James refers to boasting and lying as assaults against the truth. One may not realize how true this is until he feels the sting of sarcasm directed toward him. I love to tease and be teased, but I am realizing increasingly that people can become carried away in their words, violate the truth, and do severe damage.

An old saying runs, "Everyone loves a clown but no one wants to be his best friend." Laughter helps people to relax and bond more closely together in shared experiences, but it is good to learn to look around to see if someone is no longer laughing. Many years ago, a dinner party with several good friends also included a minister and his wife who had just been transferred to our city. It was our first occasion to dine with them, and it was a very pleasant evening. Most of us, knowing each other well, had a long evening teasing, joking, laughing, and putting each other down. We never noticed anything amiss with the new guests.

The next week at church, however, we heard a sermon about the damages of put-down humor and how it has absolutely no place in a Christian's lifestyle. The new minister talked about how even the most subtle humor can tear relationships down and cause doubts about another's affection or respect. Such humor includes referring to one's wife as "the old ball and chain" or "the biscuit-burner." Such names and teasing—as "good fun" as they may seem—diminish our friends and family, do not express the kind affection we really feel for them, are not true, and thus are lies. A Christian should never lie, not even in fun. All of us were shame-faced and sorry we had left such a negative impression, and we apologized to him, his wife and to each other.

Test: Are we teasing and boasting to another's pleasure or his discomfort? Is it true and factual? If it is not, it is a lie, and no matter how funny it is, it is sin. Sarcasm belongs in the same category: If it is not true, it is a lie. Even if it is true, how are we expressing it? Does sarcasm express love, gentleness, peace, and mercy? Can we tease one another righteously? I would like to think so, but I am still working on learning how. Without God's Spirit guiding our words, our tongues remain subtle, merciless, and destructive weapons.

James concludes by telling us directly that these forms of speaking are not godly wisdom, but "earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing will be there" (verses 15-16). The fallout from communication based on our human, selfish motivations is evident about us. The state of the world and the way it functions are often actions and reactions of crushing blows of words. Governments, businesses, sports teams, even schools, churches, and neighborhoods communicate with each other in wars of words. Our world—this "Information Age"—is practically devoid of godly, righteous speech, relying on the sensual, material, selfish pursuits that drive Satan himself. How much does it affect us and our communications with one another?

Staff
Are You Sharp-Tongued? (Part Two)


 

James 3:17-18

James concludes chapter 3 by describing the wisdom that comes only from Almighty God. It is the bit and rudder by which we can effectively gain control of our speech. Godly wisdom begins in the heart, replacing the self-indulgent human motivations with purity, peacefulness, gentleness, yieldedness, mercy, goodness, fairness, and sincerity. Words that employ these godly attributes contrast to the raging winds that fan flames of war toward total destruction. The apostle does not allow us any time to spend in the middle; our words should be fresh and trustworthy, without the bitter and shocking elements of a sharp tongue.

In Matthew 12:34, Christ says, "For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." The real issue is that our words reveal the essence of our hearts. They will tell whether we are motivated by the earthly wisdom of human desire or by the godly wisdom of the fruit of the Spirit. Unkind words reveal an unkind heart, and kind words, a kind heart.

Staff
Are You Sharp-Tongued? (Part Two)


 

 




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