“For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.” James 3:7-10

The tongue is an amazing organ. Some of the things we find most enjoyable and beneficial in life are the result of the tongue’s acts. I love to eat. In fact, I enjoy it too much. I never consciously think about the contribution my tongue makes to my eating. Day after day, year after year, probably hundreds if not thousands of times daily, it darts in and out of danger. It keeps my unchewed food in place to be torn or crushed by my teeth, and much of the time it has less than a second to do its job. When I enjoy an especially tasty meal, I never say, “Good job, tongue! You kept that wonderful food right where it needed to be for me to enjoy every bite!”

I never think of my tongue until I bite it. Then, if I am not careful, I say to myself, “Stupid tongue! Why didn’t you get out of the way? Do you realize how much the rest of my body will be inconvenienced because you did not get out of the way?”

I never remember the tongue replying, “Sorry! I must confess I got in the way on purpose. I just felt like getting bit, suffering intense pain, and adding additional difficulty to my job.” Though it is difficult to remember, the tongue only does what it is told to do. It does not function independently. Jesus said, “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.” (Matthew 12:34)

True, the tongue gets all of us in all kinds of trouble because it says what we think. However, the thought existed in us before we said it. If the idea was not in our hearts, the tongue would not have turned loose the “wrong” words.

The problem is deeper than learning to control what we say—though such control is worthy of great effort. The deeper problem is deciding what is allowed to be in the heart. The truth is that the tongue will not say what we do not think and feel. The combination of a heart dedicated to God and a tongue that is controlled is a wonderful combination!

Do you speak before you think about the way your words will affect others—maybe even those you love the most? It could be suggested that you “bite your tongue.” Perhaps it could be better suggested that you (a) examine your heart and (b) focus on ways you can give your emotions and thoughts more completely to God. Then when your heart overflows, the tongue is more likely to encourage than wound.

“God, help us be more like You. Then our mouths will be more likely to praise You than express our human frustrations. In Your ways, not our desires, is life. We seek life!”

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 2 October 2008

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