Guard Thee Well Thy Tongue

Posted on Updated on

Learning to tame the tongueThroughout the ages man has had the ability to tame various wild animals. He has also been blessed with the knowledge and ability to control such things as fire, electricity, the atom, great machines such as airplanes as they glide through the air, and large ships as they cut through the waters, directing each of them in the way they are to go. However, he has not necessarily been successful in learning how to tame and control his own tongue.

As it has been said, “First we think it, and then we say it.” Therefore, it becomes necessary to feed our minds with wholesome and useful information in order to be able to control what we say.James reminds us,

For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison (James 3: 7-8).

Regarding the tongue, James also exhorts us,

Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be (James 3: 9-10).

Be An EncoragerIn this life we will find those who encourage us and those who will discourage us. Those who encourage us always seem to have a kind word to say or thought to share. Their purpose is to edify and strengthen others – to heal, not to wound. They use the words that they say to empower and inspire people to be the best that they possibly can be, to never quit, and to endure to the end.

Encourage One AnotherThere are also those who never seem to have a kind word to say or thought to share with anyone. They are always full of negativity and find every opportunity to dishearten those whom they come in contact with. Their purpose is to belittle, degrade, demean, berate, insult, and hurt people. For them, sarcasm is an important manner of speech. They always look for the worst in people and do not hesitate to point out what they perceive to be a person’s flaws. Whenever people speak with them they walk away feeling defeated -as though they are of no worth, or in some way inferior. Those who discourage others continually pour salt on already festering wounds. It was Solomon who counseled,

There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health.  The lip of truth shall be established for ever: but a lying tongue is but for a moment.  Deceit is in the heart of them that imagine evil: but to the counsellors of peace is joy (Proverbs 12: 18-20).

And James admonishes us, “Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!” (James 3:5).

Think before you speakWe are all guilty of saying hurtful things in a moment of anger or frustration. On the other hand, we feel good about ourselves when we encourage people and so do they. And so, each of us has the power within us to encourage or discourage others. We can edify or we can tear down and destroy with our words. Let us not make excuses for losing our temper and saying hurtful things, but let us take the time to confess our offense to God and apologize to the person(s) whom we have hurt. Remember the council of James,

Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh. Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom (James 3: 11-13).

Before closing this treatise I would like to share this little story that I came across today that was shared in a local newspaper. The story did not have a title, but there are some valid points that add to our discussion nonetheless. The story is as follows:

Once upon a time, a king decided to test the wisdom of his chief adviser. He pondered a long time on the best kind of test and eventually decided on a meal. The king believed that a meal shared with friends was one of the greatest pleasures on earth. So he ordered the adviser to prepare the finest meal he could think of for a palace celebration. The adviser did not hesitate for long. He loved ox tongue with its rich sauces and trimmings.

On the chosen evening, the king and his guest sat down to a mouth-watering, sweet smelling dinner of tongue. At the end of the meal, all agreed that the adviser had proven himself a very gifted cook. The company had never tasted so excellent a meal. The king, however, insisted on knowing why the adviser thought this choice of menu was best.

“What could be better than tongue?” ask the adviser. “In life, with the words of the tongue we greet and name each other, speak and tell others where we are, share joy, bring hope, comfort and support, retell stories of the memories of the ancestors and fashion the dreams of the time that is still to come. Nothing is so fine as the gift of the tongue.”

This answer greatly pleased the king. There was only one final test to prove the wisdom of his chosen adviser beyond doubt. “Tomorrow,” he said, “I want you to prepare the worst meal in the world for the company.” Again, the adviser showed no hesitation and began to prepare the menu.

The next evening, the company gathered around the table again. The smells from the kitchen seemed familiar and when the meal was set on the table they were all surprised because it looked and tasted exactly like the meal of the previous evening. All cut the meal carefully, examined it, chewed it slowly, but none could find any difference.

“Have you not served that delicious meal of tongue again?” asked the king. “It is not possible that it can also be the worst meal in the world. Privately, the king was disappointed. He had been so confident in the wisdom of his adviser after the first test.

“What can sow doubt and confusion more skillfully than the tongue?” asked the adviser. “There are very few other things that can spread so much evil. It can lie and deceive, stir up hatred and anger, play the coward, abuse and terrify and, most often of all, is empty and hollow, using many words to say nothing at all. A tongue can be the worst instrument in the world.” The wisdom of the answer silenced the king. He found that he had much to ponder.

kid-with-hands-on-hipsSolomon taught us many valuable lessons concerning the power of the tongue. Two of those lessons are worth noting at the close of this discussion: (1) “Whoever guards his mouth and his tongue keeps his soul from troubles” (Proverbs 21:23), and (2) “Even the foolish man, when he keeps quiet, is taken to be wise: when his lips are shut he is credited with good sense” (Proverbs 17:28). This is some very wise counsel indeed. Counsel that I pray we all will heed.