Controlling Our Tongue

by Joanna Pierce on June 27, 2019

Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell (James 3:5–6, KJV).

The Tongue

Our tongue represents our ability to speak. We can do a lot of harm with our mouth, and our tongue, intentionally or unintentionally. Scripture tells us that both death and life are found in the tongue (Proverbs 18:21). Because of this great impact, we must exercise great effort to control our tongue. If we learn to do this, there are many benefits. God gave us many ways to communicate, which is ultimately His gift to humanity. Because communication is a gift, we must view it under the auspices of how it can be used for God’s Kingdom (James 3:9–10). As with any gift, there are guidelines God sets in Scripture for its proper use.

The Laws of the Tongue

When Not to Speak

We do not need to speak all the time; there should be a time that we’re quiet (Ecclesiastes 3:7)! If we don’t know how to be quiet, we need to be taught so we can learn (Job 6:24). Silence needs to be exercised in a variety of situations. One of which is when someone confides in us. We’re not to be a gossip and betray that person’s secret and/or their confidence in us (Proverbs 20:19). Additionally, as Christians, we shouldn’t have any corrupt communication come out of our mouths (Ephesians 4:29). Therefore, we shouldn’t participate in conversations that tear down others. In dealing with difficult people, circumstances, etc., we need to guard our reactions and be silent. We cannot let anger take control of our tongue and cause us to sin (Psalms 4:4). If we cannot control our tongue, it’s a heart issue (Matthew 12:34).

When to Speak

We should appreciate our opportunity to speak and engage with people. God gave us the ability to speak to edify the Body of Christ and to be a witness for Him. But, how do we effectively engage in the appropriate time to speak? Scripture teaches us that a word perfectly timed is very valuable (Proverbs 25:11); it can be more appealing and effective to others. Knowing what someone needs to hear is just as important as knowing the time to share it. Jesus exemplified speaking at the right time. When approached by Pilot, He knew when to speak and when to abstain (John 18:33–37, 19:8–11). With the disciples, Jesus had many more things to say, but didn’t because they couldn’t handle it at the time (John 16:12). We should be mindful, prayerful, and discern from God to know when to speak (Proverbs 15:14).

What to Speak

We need to stop responding with our emotions and seek Got for the right thing to say (Ecclesiastes 12:9–10). We’re called to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to answer (James 1:19). We don’t always need to provide an answer to people. If we speak too soon it will be something we’ll regret. Our culture today tells us we don’t need to watch what we say. But, this is contrary to the Word of God (James 1:26). We need to be intentional about what we say. Again, our words should edify, instruct, calm, and encourage others.

How to Speak

Jesus was harsh at times, but He was gracious and calm at the right times. There’s a lot we can learn about the tone in which Jesus spoke when He was ministering and when He was confronted with the enemy. A soft answer will turn away wrath (Proverbs 15:1). We’re to follow Jesus’ example in speaking and controlling the tongue (I Peter 2:21–23).

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on June 26, 2019 with Guest Teacher, Brother Fisher