Hearing those words come out of my six-year old’s innocent little snaggle-toothed mouth made the hair on my neck stand on end. It’s one thing to listen to an adult drop those words, but to hear my child say them was like listening to nails being dragged down a chalkboard. Cringe.
I expect wholesome speech from my children, just as I expect it of myself. I want us to be a family that always speaks that which is pleasing to God. But I know from a lifetime of experience that it’s nearly impossible to do so all the time. I’ll have to agree with James when he wrote, “No man can tame the tongue” (James 3:8). It seems that no matter the effort I put forth, I’m always engaged in a battle with this unruly part of my being. And what’s worse is that my ongoing battle is set on a stage, with the audience being my three young impressionable children. To hear them parrot my verbal mishaps is enough to keep me fully engaged in the battle in the pursuit of victory. Daily I fight to bring my tongue from a state of unruliness into a state of complete submission. Sometimes my tongue is like a roaring lion, growling and ready to attack. Other times it’s like a serpent, whispering flattery and little half truths into the ears of those I want to persuade. My tongue has many rebellious sides to it, all of which need to be brought into full subjection.
But how does one battle an unruly tongue? It seems like such a small, almost insignificant part of the body, merely good for tasting and swallowing. In actuality, the tongue is so mighty that it holds the power of life and death. It’s so important that the Bible mentions it 160 times. It’s referred to more than our eyes or our ears. For a lump of tissue that’s covered in bumps, the tongue certainly has a substantial resume! It is small but it is mighty. And what’s even more daunting is the lurking truth that the battle to tame the tongue is actually impossible. It seems it cannot be done. In fact, the Bible tells us, “For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way” (James 3:2). So not only is our tongue powerful enough to hold life and death, it’s uncontrollable. Unstoppable. Unruly. So...Why even bother?
Thankfully there is a weapon that is stronger than the troublesome tongue: the Spirit of God. In fact, the Holy Spirit is our only hope in the battle against this bumpy lumpy flesh. We must be willing to bridle our tongues and bring them into submission to Him on a daily---albeit, sometimes hourly----basis. (Maybe more if you have toddlers or teenagers.)
So how do we begin this process of allowing the Holy Spirit to tame our tongue? The first step is to understand the authority we’ve been given. As children of God, we've already been empowered to use our tongues wisely. Isaiah tells us that, “The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary.” (Isaiah 50:4). God has already given us everything we need to live a godly life, and that includes owning the power required to tame the tongue. If we ask Him, the Holy Spirit will begin to soften our hearts and make us sensitive to the words that come out of our mouths. As he raises those little red flags for each possible negative use of our tongue, we can then begin to resist the temptation of heading down the wrong verbal path. Spiritual maturity comes from asking Him to show us and then obeying Him when he does. We can and will grow, learning to speak the right words in the right season for the right reason. Then our tongues will be transformed from an unruly, destructive weapon to the wellspring of life that they were intended to be.
Below is a list of six Scriptures that address the ungodly uses of the tongue. Each day choose one verse to meditate on and pray through. Ask the Holy Spirit to make you sensitive to the areas where you need grace, forgiveness, and maybe even deliverance.
Go ahead. Be the boss of that tongue.
And blessings as you do!
“The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue,
to know the word that sustains the weary.
He wakens me morning by morning,
wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.” Isaiah 50:4
Father, I pray that you would waken me morning by morning so that I may receive Your instruction. Speak into my life so that I may speak into others’ lives. Show me the areas where I need to tame my tongue so that I may use my mouth as a vessel to bless and encourage those around me. I turn my ear to you today. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:6
Lord, teach me how to be a person who brings grace and flavor to my conversations, without stumbling into gossip, exaggeration, divisiveness, boastfulness, self-deprecation, slander, meddling, betrayal, or complaining. Give me your words of life, joy, and truth to speak as an answer to everyone. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
“Do everything without grumbling or arguing...” Philippians 2:14
Father, I pray that you would turn my heart from grumbling, arguing, complaining, or anything else along those lines. Show me when my words are headed in that direction and put a muzzle over my mouth. Let no unwholesome talk leave my lips, but only that which is right and true and life-giving. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
“Listen, for I have trustworthy things to say; I open my lips to speak what is right. My mouth speaks what is true, for my lips detest wickedness.” Proverbs 8:6-7
Lord, I want to be a person of integrity. I want to be someone who has trustworthy things to say. I pray that you would instill in me a disgust for wickedness, that my mouth would only speak that which is true. Turn my heart from deceitfulness, flattery, manipulation, tactlessness, or indiscretion. Replace them with your Truth. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
“My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long.” Psalm 71:8
Father, I long to be a person who is known for a strong passion for You. I want to be someone who is characterized by Joy! Give me eyes to see Your hand at work all around me so that I may declare your splendor all day long. Give me a heart of gratefulness, praise, contentment, and thanksgiving. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
“The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.” Proverbs 10:11
Lord, I pray that you would give me wisdom to know when to speak and when to stay silent. Give me strength and courage to be a voice of Truth. Show me when to be discreet and when to shed light on injustice. Remove any accusatory tendencies in my heart and check my motives so that I may walk in freedom and truth. In Jesus’ name, Amen.