Everybody carries about within themselves their own Judas Iscariot known as: the tongue. It is personal because it is included with all of the inner workings of our heart. It sits at the center of all communications with which we are involved. Even if we do not articulate sounds into words for communication, it is still involved in the process. Our mind is always ready, at a moments notice, to call into service it’s useful talents, and it is always prepared to oblige. And too, it is very patient. It stores the intents of the heart because it has a knack of speaking truth with “technicalities” attached; masking, detouring or deflecting from that which is necessary to maintain a good reputation for it’s host. This is where it’s true power comes into play, for it can often hold us hostage. I am sure that you have had instances in your life where you have said or thought, “Did I just say that? I didn’t really mean to say that.” These instances are clear indications of the power of this little organ which God calls, “…a fire, a world of iniquity:” If it were truly loyal, then there would be no concern for this “little member”, but it is not loyal. Therefore, much effort need be expended to keep this wild mustang in control. It can set “…on fire the course of nature…”, leading us down paths that we would rather not go.
A man working in the produce department was asked by a lady if she could buy half a head of lettuce. He replied, “Half a head? Are you serious? God grows these in whole heads and that’s how we sell them!”
“You mean,” she persisted, “that after all the years I’ve shopped here, you won’t sell me half-a-head of lettuce?”
“Look,” he said, “If you like I’ll ask the manager.”
She indicated that would be appreciated, so the young man marched to the front of the store. “You won’t believe this, but there’s a lame-braided lady back there who wants to know if she can buy half-a-head of lettuce.”
As he said so, the manager was gesturing behind him. When he turned around to see what he was gesturing at, he saw the lady was standing right there behind him. She followed him to the front of the store. Quick witted and embarrassed he said, “And this nice lady was wondering if she could buy the other half.”
Later that same day the manager cornered the young man and said, “That was the finest example of thinking on your feet I’ve ever seen! Where did you learn that?”
“I grew up in Grand Rapids, and if you know anything about Grand Rapids, you know that it’s famous for its great hockey teams and its unattractive women.”
The manager’s face flushed, and he interrupted, “My wife is from Grand Rapids!”
“And which hockey team did she play for?”
The tongue must be bridled if there is any hope of taming this unruly organ. This is very important because Jesus said, “… every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.” (Matt. 12:36).
Our tongues get us in trouble by lying – Pro. 6:17; 25:18
A man was being baptized in a remote village, high in the mountains. before his conversion, he had been an outrageous liar, and the villagers were skeptical of this sudden change of heart. The missionary doused him in the freezing waters of a mountain river and the man emerged shivering.
“Is it cold?” the missionary asked anxiously.
“No, it’s fine,” said the man.
“Dunk him again, Pastor,” shouted a villager, “he’s still a liar!”
Even what seems to be innocent “white lies” are bad. A lie is a lie and the Lord does not like a “lying tongue” (Pro. 6:17). The Lord always likes the truth. Perhaps you think, “What about times when I might incriminate myself? Should I tell the truth even if I know it is going to hurt me or someone else?” Do you remember times in the Bible where the Lord Jesus Himself would not answer the inquiries of the Pharisees? What did He do? He said nothing at all. This concept was first exposed in the lives of many people today through the Walt Disney movie: “Bambi.” There was a rabbit (Thumper) who said, “If you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nuthin’ at all.” How great this principle works in many circumstances, but not all of them. There are times when you have to say the hard truth, but you can always make it easier to receive if you use a little tact. But, these circumstances are not the norm.
Our tongues gets us into trouble by Flattery – Psa. 5:9; Pro. 6:24
There is a story that centers on a king and the members of his court who were continually full of flattery. “You are the greatest man that ever lived…You are the most powerful king of all…Your highness, there is nothing you cannot do, nothing in this world dares disobey you.”
The king was a wise man and he grew tired such foolish speeches. One day as he was walking by the seashore he decided to teach them a lesson. “So you say I am the greatest man in the world?” he asked them. “O king,” they cried, “there never has been anyone as mighty as you, and there will never be anyone so great, ever again!”
“And you say all things obey me?” he asked.
“Yes sire” they said. “The world bows before you, and gives you honor.”
“I see,” the king answered. “In that case, bring me my chair, and place it down by the water.” The servants scrambled to carry the royal chair over the sands. At his direction they placed it right at the water’s edge. The King sat down and looked out at the ocean. “I notice the tide is coming in. Do you think it will stop if I give the command?”
“Give the order, O great king, and it will obey,” cried his entourage.
“Sea,” cried the king, “I command you to come no further! Do not dare touch my feet!”
He waited a moment, and a wave rushed up the sand and lapped at his feet. “How dare you!” he shouted. “Ocean, turn back now! I have ordered you to retreat before me, and now you must obey! Go back!” In came another wave lapping at the king’s feet. The king remained on his throne throughout the day, screaming at the waves to stop. Yet they came in anyway, until the seat of the throne was covered with water.
Finally the king turned to his servants and said, “It seems I do not have quite so much power as you would have me believe. Perhaps now you will remember there is only one King who is all-powerful, and it is He who rules the sea, and holds the ocean in the hollow of His hand. I suggest you reserve your praises for him.”
Flattery is false leading. When you flatter someone, it is not a compliment. It is building in them a false confidence, which God considers wicked (Psa. 5:9). If you are continually given to flattery, then no one will trust anything you say; your mouth becomes unfaithful to the truth. It is practically impossible for anyone to discern between flattery and truth. So, they pretty much discard everything you say.
Our tongues gets us into trouble by Proud speaking – Psa. 12:3-4; Pro. 10:31; Isa. 54:17
Everybody gives in to pride at different times, but there is a difference in being proud and using proud speech. There is a modern day saying for this kind of speech called: “talking trash.” It means that you are self promoting in your speech. You talk yourself up to others making them feel lowly and inadequate. People engaged in the use of proud speaking have always done more or seen more than you have. No matter what type of story you tell about your life, they have one better than you. You can get an example of this when you consider the verbal sparring of two grade school children. One says, “My daddy is smarter than your daddy.” The other says, “My daddy has been to more schools than your daddy has.” Not wanting to be outdone, the first responds with, “My daddy is stronger than your daddy”, and so forth it goes.
I was fortunate to see much of America before I graduated High school. My dad was a traveler. When I was in the navy, many of the young men who were my peers would tell stories about their hometowns or states. They would ask, “Have you ever seen…?” Almost every time, I would answer, “Yes! I’ve been there.” I was unaware that this was bothering them until one day a shipmate said in frustration, “Isn’t there any place where you haven’t been?” Well, sure there was, but I didn’t realize that my speech sounded like I was being proud; always trying to be better than they were by being more places than they. Of course, that was not my intention, but it was how they were taking it.
The Lord does not like the tongue that speaks proud things (Psa. 12:3-4). In fact, He says that He will “cut off” the tongue that speaks such things. In a practical way, a person that is always speaking like they are better than you are is pretty much excluded from people’s lives. In that sense, they are “cut off” from others. Like a person that uses flattery, everything they say is pretty much discarded.
Our tongues get us into trouble by speaking too much – Ecc. 5:3; Pro. 12:13; 18:6-7
It is foolish to talk to much. You usually find this is predominate in the person whom is a “relater” or is lonely. The relater likes to talk too much because they are trying hard to establish a relationship with someone by telling all about themselves and their lives. They figure, the more I tell about myself, the more they will know about me and have a good chance to like me. The Bible says, “…a fool’s voice is know by multitude of words.” Unfortunately, there are many problems that come from this line of reasoning. The most obvious is that the one listening will be gaining all of the knowledge while the talker is really learning very little. Rosalind Ferguson said, “A flow of words does not mean a flow of wisdom” and she is right.
The lonely person simply has no one to speak with on a regular basis. Therefore, they feel that the opportunity to speak to someone is an opportunity to release all of the stored up conversation residing in them. They speak so much and so fast that you can hardly get a word in. They will even ask you a question and then answer their own question, hardly giving you a chance to reply at all. Or, they will ask you a question without really caring what the answer is because they are happy to just get an opportunity to speak. When trapped talking to a lonely person, all too often people take the Plato approach.
A verbose and extremely boring man said to the philosopher, “I hope I’m not boring you?” Plato smiled ingeniously.
“Oh, no,” he said, “I wasn’t listening.”
In either case, it is foolish to speak too much. Invariably you will say something more than what you should say. Because you are so caught up in the moment of being able to speak to someone, you end up searching for new things to say. This is when you really have to be aware of what you are doing. You can easily recognize these times because you will find yourself starting at the beginning of what you already said and then going through it all again. This is called “circular speaking.” You just keep going round and round again through all of the issues that you have on mind, speaking with no sight to an end.
Abraham Lincoln once said, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”
Proverbs 18:7 A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul.
Our tongues get us into trouble by speaking to swiftly- James 1:19; Pro. 18:13
People who speak too swiftly are those who never completely listen and formulate an idea before they speak out. They hear the first tid-bit or what another is saying and in blinding light-speed their minds go to work thinking of how they want to respond. All the time, the first person is continuing to speak; and hasn’t even finished their sentence yet.
These are the kind of people who don’t hold on to a matter long enough to consider it’s ramifications if passed on too soon. They are not good stewards of the information they gain by communicating with others. The trouble with the person who speaks too quickly is that he often says something he hasn’t completely thought through yet.
Finally, there are those who hear about something happening to someone else and will simply believe what they hear, no matter how absurd it may sound, without validating it’s truth. The Bible tells us this is a “folly and shame” to answer “…a matter before…” hearing it (Pro. 18:13).
Our tongues get us into trouble by Talebearing – Pro. 18:8; Lev. 19:16
Talebearing is simply gossip. Gossip is a very destructive form of communicating. I believe every gossip comes with an oversized nose because they are usually the nosiest people there is. They like to gain information because they get the thrill out of telling what they know. Therefore, the more they know, the more they get to tell and the greater the thrill.
Without consideration for others, the gossip will convey words that are hurtful and destructive to an innocent person who is not present to defend themselves. The talebearer is not the conveyer of things that are happening in lives of their friends. They are conveyers of DESTRUCTIVE things that will hurt someone who is not present (Pro. 18:8). All gossips should be stopped immediately and can be if you use one simple tool: Tell them you are going to repeat to the victim what they are going to say. In fact, you can cut them short by saying to them, “Wait a minute! If you are not willing to tell them to their face, then I don’t want to hear it. But if you insist, be assured, I will be confronting them because, if I am a loving friend, it is my duty to validate anything being said about them in person to their face. After all, wouldn’t you expect the same?”
A family was entertaining some friends for dinner. The hostess, anxious to show that they upheld Christian standards in their own home, asked her five-year-old to say grace. There was an awkward pause, followed by a reassuring word from the boy’s mother, “Well, darling, just say what Daddy said at breakfast this morning.” Obediently the boy repeated, “Oh God, we’ve got those awful people coming for dinner tonight and I wish they weren’t coming. But if they do come, then please give us grace. Amen!” (Oops).
Words can hurt bad and when they are being said behind the victims back, it is called GOSSIP!
Our tongues get us into trouble by Backbiting – Pro. 25:23; 6:19; Rom. 1:30
Similar to gossip, backbiting is destructive. However, there is a slight difference. Backbiting is when a person is intentionally trying to cause damage or harm to another. It is a premeditated form of gossip.
Joey wanted the job and he was certain to get it, but there was one other person who was equally qualified. The boss was thinking it over to see which one he would choose. “Come back tomorrow and I’ll decide. I want to think it over.”
That afternoon, almost completely unable to deal with the indecision, Joey decided he should do something to help his cause. He decided to call the boss. “Hello, Boss? I just wanted to tell you how much I would work hard for you. And…I think you would be making a big mistake hiring Jim.”
“Why would you say something like that?”, asked the boss.
“Well, I grew up with him and he was a always a really lazy person. Our teachers in high school were always frustrated with his poor performance.”
“Well, thank you for telling me that. I’ll keep it in mind while I think about it.”
The next day Joey and Jim showed up at the appointed time. Both were anxious and they really wanted to get this job. Sitting down at the table with them, the boss said, “Well, I’ve made my decision. It was hard at first until I talked with someone last night who made my decision very easy.” Joey kept a straight face, but inside he was beaming with satisfaction. “I’ve decided that Jim should have the job. I would be happy to have someone who is honest working for our company.”
This story illustrated how backbiting is intentionally trying to hurt someone. Joey was intentionally trying to hurt Jim for no other reason than his own self promotion. Unfortunately for him, it didn’t work as well as he planned.
God hates backbiters (Rom. 1:30), and He very clearly makes that known that backbiters are, “…worthy of death…” (Rom. 1:32). It is especially distasteful to Him because He told us that he hates it (Pro. 6:16-19). God hates any form of self promotion; and backbiting is one of the worst that there is.
How do you deal with a person that is a backbiter. What do you do when someone is telling you something and you suspect they are doing nothing more than saying mean, ugly, terrible things about a person behind their back, just because they want to hurt them by manipulating you? Proverbs 25:23 says, “The north wind driveth away rain: so doth an angry countenance a backbiting tongue.” The cold northern wind turns the rain into snow or makes it so cold that the clouds do not drop their contents upon us. God compares this with an angry countenance. That is to say, a cold angry look, coupled with cold words about the backbiting will cause it to stop. So, you cut it off quickly and decisively. You can tell them in a very strong tone: “I don’t want to hear any of that!” If it continues, then just walk away and break contact with them until it is resolved.
Cursing – Psa. 109:17-18; Rom. 3:13-14
Cursing is when you are wishing a higher power to render evil into the life of another person. Again, the motive behind this is to hurt someone. It is similar to backbiting, but instead of manipulating someone to have an evil opinion of the victim, you are asking some higher power to provide the pain instead.
When we talk about cursing someone today, we naturally think about voodoo or witchcraft or some similar cultish thing. But, God in the Bible has cursed things. He clearly cursed the serpent whom deceived Eve (Gen 3:14). He cursed the earth to make it grow thorns and thistles ( Gen 3:17-18). Of course, God is not cultish, but He is a higher power. In fact, He is the highest power.
God does not like it when His creation whishes to curse another of His creations. He likens it to the poison of asps (Rom. 3:13-14). He would rather have us use our tongues to be a blessing to people instead of cursing them (Psa. 109:17-18).
So we see that cursing is not only the speaking of an occasional bad word. Those words are not empty in their content, because what is carried with them is an attitude of the heart of the person using them. Of course, I will not list them here for example, but if you think about each one, they are not used for any good or well wishes to anyone. Each one that is used is meant to hurt someone or to exclaim a hurt you are undergoing. They are hurtful words and if you use them regularly, they are just as hard to quit using as to quit smoking cigarettes. They can become addictive, but once you realize it is an addiction that is not self-destructive, but is always destructive to others, it is easier to get a handle on their use.
Hurting others – Pro. 12:18; Col. 4:6; Tit. 2:8
Proverbs 12:18 There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health.
There are times when we are not cursing, not gossiping and not backbiting, but we still are saying destructive, hurtful words. God speaks about this kind of use of the tongue. In Proverbs 12:18 He speaks about people who use words like a piercing of a sword. These are the words that can hurt all the way down into the heart. They are hurtful, unimaginable words, but they exist in the world today. They are everyday common words, but when coupled by the right attitude, and given at precisely the right time, they can hurt more than anything else.
A mother had raised her daughter all of her life because of a nasty divorce. Young Susan had grown to be quite a rebellious teen and it didn’t seem as if mom was able to connect with her anymore. No matter what she tried, Susan was rebellious in her quest to gain adulthood. One day, as Susan was leaving the house for what appeared to be a date, mom asked, “Where are you going honey?” Susan looked sternly at her mom and with words that were as cold as ice said, “That’s none of your business! Why do you care anyway?”
“I love you…”, then she was cut off. Susan speaking over top of her shouted, “Well, I hate you!” and walked out the door, slamming it as she went.
There was no backbiting. There was no gossip or cursing, but the words hurt mom deep down in the very inner recesses of her heart. Susan was using words designed to hurt mom and she was very effective at doing so. This is why God says to: “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” (Colossians 4:6). There is nothing you can do to defend yourself against such words when they are directed towards you. You can only absorb them and guard your heart by looking on the bright side if you can find one.
Remaining silent about Christ – Acts 1:8
The worst and most despicable use (or should I say misuse) of the tongue is to not use it when you should. Our tongues are so unruly and evil that they resist being involved in spreading the gospel. When it comes time to speak a word of testimony, our tongues miraculously have nothing to say. This is because they are evil by nature and must be controlled. They must be told when to speak and when not to speak. There have been times when I have been around a most talkative person, who when the subject of the gospel came up, they closed up like a great giant clam, almost daring you to pry them open. The tongue should be ready and willing to speak about Christ. Why is it that it does not? People say that they can’t THINK of anything to say, but I don’t believe that to be true. They know what they have learned about getting saved. If they are saved, they know something about Jesus. They know they don’t need to be a Bible Scholar. All God asks of us is to be witnesses. Everybody who is saved can be a witness. Everybody can tell what they have seen and experienced. But it is the deceitful tongue that thinks it is in control, and it is if you don’t keep it in control.
Acts 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.