Friday, November 23, 2012

The Power of the Tongue

Throughout Scripture we are warned about our tongue.  Did you ever bite your tongue?  Hurts don't it.  It can also hurt others.  Once something hurtful is spoken to another person it cannot be taken back.  Oh, you may say, "I didn't mean that" ... but the damage is already done.

In Scripture, when the tongue is referenced, it is usually referring to a language or words spoken, some type of communication through speech.  At other times the mouth is spoken of, but it is with the meaning ... words formed by the tongue, spoken by the mouth through our lips.  So in essence, all three have virtually the same meaning in Scripture.

Way back in the Old Testament, God was speaking to His people about the dangers that the power of the tongue can wield.  Look what the Holy Spirit had Solomon declare in his book of wisdom ...

Proverbs 13:3 ... "He who guards his mouth keeps his life ..."  It has been said that God has given us two eyes that we may see much; two ears that we may hear much; but only one tongue, fenced in with teeth to indicate that though we hear and see much ... we should speak but little.

And why is that?  According to Proverbs 18:21 ... "Death and life are in the power of the tongue ..."  Although we are not God, we can still bless those around us when we speak and declare "life" over them.  This "life blessing" may include health, safety, prosperity and perhaps even the number of their days, how long they will live.  So speak blessing unto your family and friends in the name of Jesus.

David, the shepherd boy who became King, who the Scripture speaks of as a man after God's own heart, declared in Psalms 34:12-13 ...

"What man is he who desires life and longs for many days ... Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit."

 Albert Barnes (1798-1870) an American Presbyterian biblical scholar and theologian that I often quote said this about David's instruction ...

"Keep your tongue from evil ... From speaking wrong things.  Always give utterance to truth.  The meaning is, that this is one of the methods of lengthening out life.  Speak the truth; avoid all falsehood, slander and deceit, and it will contribute to, or will be a means which will tend to prolong life, and make it happy.

And your lips from speaking deceit ... Do not deceive others by your words.  Do not make any statements which are not true, or any promises which you cannot and will not keep.  Let all your words convey truth.  It cannot be doubted that this, like all other virtues, would tend to lengthen life, and to make it prosperous and peaceful.  There is no vice which does not tend to abridge human life, as there is no virtue which does not tend to lengthen it.

It is also true that God will bless a life of virtue and uprightness, and though there is no absolute certainty that anyone, however virtuous he may be, may not be cut off in early life, yet it is also true that, other things being equal, a man of truth and integrity will be more likely to live long ... as he will be more certain to make the most of life ... than one who is false and corrupt."

We need to guard not only what we say ... but how we say it.  Men cannot spit forth poison without feeling some of the venom burning their own flesh.

David understood the importance of his words, otherwise he wouldn't have prayed as he did in Psalms 19:14 when he said ... "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD ..."

I have shared some of David's heart as far as his words are recorded in Scripture concerning the power of the tongue.  The Scripture also records in Matthew 12:34-37 the words of Jesus about how mankind as a whole speaks.

"... out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  A good man, out of a good heart brings forth good things; and an evil man, out of a evil heart brings forth evil things.  I say unto you, every idle word that men speak, they shall give an account of in the day of judgment.  For by the words you shall be justified, and by thy words you shall be condemned."

Jesus doesn't mess around with words does He.  He cuts right to the chase, to the heart of the matter.  Then a little later in Matthew 15:18, He says almost the same thing but adds a clarifying point at the end ...

"Those things which proceed out of the mouth, come from the heart ... (speaking of evil things spoken) ... and they defile the man."

John Gill's Commentary addresses the problem of an evil man's heart speaking ... "He is not the man his mouth declares him to be, but what his heart thinks; which is discovered by his actions, by which he is to be judged of, and not by his words."

What is in the heart ... will come out ... sooner or later.  Solomon puts it this way in Proverbs 23:7 ... "As a man thinks in his heart, so is he."

I love the words of Solomon ... usually ... so here are a few of his thoughts concerning what and how we speak. 

"You are snared with the words of your mouth ... He that hath knowledge spares his words ... See a man that is hasty in his words, there is more hope in a fool than in him ... The words of a wise man are gracious ... Be not rash with your mouth nor let your heart be hasty to utter anything before God; for God is in heaven, and you are on the earth; therefore let thy words be few."  (edited for clarity)

My final thoughts are from James 3:6-11 and what he thinks about the power of the tongue.  He says ...

"The tongue is a fire, it's undisciplined evil, full of deadly poison.  With it we bless God and with it we curse men made in His likeness.  Out of the same mouth come forth blessing and cursing.  These things ought not to be.  Does a fountain send forth fresh water and bitter water from the same opening?"
  (Amplified, edited)

James also said ... "No man can tame his tongue."

Prove him wrong.

Comments welcome.

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