Well, Shut My Mouth
Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from trouble.
The principle taught in this verse is one of the most empirically obvious in God’s creation, but most of us need remedial classes to learn the lesson. How many times do we roll our eyes and think, How could I have said something so stupid?
We can keep our souls from trouble- the trouble that comes from others tormenting us for hurting them or from the nagging guilt from saying dumb things- only if we actively guard our mouths. Here are some common sense suggestions that can change your life:
- Every morning, ask God for wisdom about your words.
- Before any significant conversation, take a minute to define your goals. Also, identify any topics or issues to avoid or treat diplomatically.
- Watch out for any temptation to use sarcasm to get a laugh.(Stopping that habit may severely limit the number of words some of us use!)
- In conversation, be aware that words can kill or cure. If you feel emotions rising, take a deep breath and don’t let your words fly!
- From time to time, give yourself a progress report on how well you’re guarding your mouth.
For all of us, learning a new skill takes time and effort. And for some of us, the learning curve for guarding our words is really steep. Still, the peace of mind and joy of relationships are worth the effort.
I have never had to apologize for something I did not say.
There is incredible power in the spoken word. We read that all of creation came into being because God spoke. And we also read that Eve and Adam sinned because they listened to the devil speak. Proverbs says that the power of life and death is in the tongue. When we consider what we speak is so powerful it ought to cause us to pause before we speak and ask ourselves whether or not what we are about to say is going to bring life or death; whether or not it will build up or tear down; and whether or not it will bring peace or war. Great conflicts that end in wars and death and destruction are often caused by an ill-spoken word. Yet peace and unity have been made because of a timely wise word. The Bible has much to say about how we speak.
Jesus said that out of the abundance of the heart our mouths speak. So as we think about what is coming out of our mouths, we would do well to consider what is in our hearts. Again words matter for what we put into our hearts will eventually come out of our mouths. Think for a moment about some godly person you may know and observe what words come from them. If you listen you will discover that much of what comes from them are the words of the Bible. In other words, their words are God’s words and God’s words are their words. You can see that they have been filling up their hearts with the Word of God. On the other hand think of someone that bitter, harsh, selfish and ungodly words come from and I think it’s fair to say the they spend most of their time soaking up those kind of things.
The power of spoken words can be easily seen when we can repeat the words of some commercial we have heard several times. “Oh, I wish I were an Oscar-Meyer wiener and everybody would be in love with me!” Or how many times can you sing or say the words to some song you heard years ago. Or how many times have we heard someone repeating again and again some hurtful word someone said to them years ago?
The problem with what is spoken is that it can never be taken back. Even an apology doesn’t always remove the pain of a hurtful word. I’m sure we’ve all watched enough TV shows of court cases and someone has said something that should not have been said. And we will hear the judge say, “Disregard that statement” as though we can somehow erase what we have heard.
I remember as I was growing up hearing, “Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can never harm you.” Now I don’t know who came up with that but my observation is that it isn’t true. While the instant pain of a stone or a stick and broken bones may be intense, healing comes, bones mend and pain subsides and in most cases ceases. But words that cut a heart, damage someone’s character, harm their reputation often color that person for life. I’ve seen beautiful, intelligent people struggle with life because someone spoke negative things into their life and those words stuck and overpowered all the other evident person they were.
James in his letter states that while men may control great ships with a tiny rudder or strong horses can be controlled with a small bit, no one has ever successfully contained the tongue. That may seem hopeless and so we just give ourselves up to letting anything come out of our mouths and excuse it with, “Pardon my French!”, but in truth the heart that is fully yielded to God will only produce the fruit of righteousness and from that position the mouth speaks.
It’s interesting to read that when the Holy Spirit came upon the believers in the Upper Room, He gained control of their tongue and the Bible says, “they began to speak as the Spirit gave them utterance.” What that means is that the Holy Spirit controlled what came out of their mouths. And according to James, if the Holy Spirit has control of your tongue, then by default He also has control of the rest of you.
The evident fruit of the Spirit can often be seen by what comes forth from our lips. James says that no spring can give out both bitter and sweet water and a thorn tree doesn’t bear figs nor does a fig tree produce thorns. And he says that no tongue surrendered to God can speak death but will speak life.
So the next time you feel the urge to check your spirituality, check your mouth. Perhaps an old saying would be good to live by: “If you can’t say anything good, don’t say anything.”
Sent from my iPad
Dr. John Thompson