I remember a day when I was quite upset with one of my sons. He made a request that disrupted my plans. I was angry for a number of “good reasons.” I stewed it over for several moments. I determined in my heart that I would not lash out at my son, but make this a teachable moment. Later on, my son came to me and apologized about the inconvenience of his request. I opened my mouth and, all of a sudden, this tirade of accusations and anger came out! I could not believe what I had just said. And my poor son stood there, obviously wounded by my cutting words. I was now the one who needed to apologize and, as I did, I was quite thankful (and relieved) that my son showed me more grace than I had given him.
James 3:6 says, “The tongue … is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”
Our words get us into a lot of trouble. Many times, our words get us into trouble when we do not think about what we are going to say. We react and then our mouths take over; not unlike a fire-breathing dragon!
However, there are times when even our minds cannot control our tongues. My situation is a good example of what James is talking about in verse 8: No man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
Yet it is so important to get our tongues under control. Our tongues affect our witness (how many times have unbelievers been turned off by the hypocrisy, judgmentalism and harsh words of Christians?) and our walk (the guilt from things said get us off track from following the Lord). How do we tame our tongues when our tongues are “untameable”?
The secret is not just controlling our speech, but controlling what influences our heart. You see, the tongue is the outward expression of our hearts. Whatever is in the heart is what is waiting to be said with the tongue. That is why the mind has a difficult time taming the tongue: the heart is much deeper and stronger than the mind. Our minds can keep our mouths closed (for awhile), but eventually the things of the heart come out in one way, shape or form.
James says in verse 11: Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? The obvious answer is “no”. But the point of what he is saying is this: is my tongue connected to the “fresh water heart” of Jesus or the “salt water heart” of my flesh? And the state of my heart is determined by what I put into it. What I put into my heart will determine what comes out of it – and what comes out of my mouth.
So taming the tongue involves examining what we put into our lives. If we “input” our lives with things like prayer, Bible reading, wholesome fellowship, serving, giving, forgiveness and walking with Jesus 24/7, our hearts will be purer and our speech will follow suit. But if we fill our lives with things that reinforce the values of the world (TV, music, gossip, materialism, selfishness), our hearts will shrivel up and our tongues will betray the smallness of our hearts.
Transformation of the tongue is evidence of transformation of the heart, and that’s what Whole Life Worship in the everyday ordinary is all about.
How has the untamed tongue reeked havoc in your life? What has helped you tame the tongue? Can you visualize how your life would be different if your tongue was used for praising God and building up others, rather than for cursing, complaining, and tearing down?
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)