Guard Your Lips
The Puritan Thomas Brooks once wrote, “We know metals by their tinkling, and men by their talking.”
Words are seldom neutral. God hears every word we speak—our lives are exposed before Him, and the Bible has the uncanny capacity to probe the recesses even of that which we seek to hide from ourselves and others.
Each of us is marked by memories of words spoken to us. Perhaps we reflect on the joy of a child’s first words or still feel the bitterness of a friend’s hurtful words. From our earliest days, we learn how to use words both to bring harm and to bring gladness. King Solomon was right: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21).
We are all fallen. Therefore, hurtful words easily flow from our mouths. They can be reckless, like the careless swing of a sword, and unguarded during times when we answer before we listen. Sometimes we simply say too much; inevitably, we say things we should have kept to ourselves. Words can destroy a neighbor, crush the feelings of a friend, and set fire to our relationships with others. One wrong word may spoil a person’s character, smear a reputation, or mar the usefulness of someone else’s life for a very long time. We know all this, yet how hard we find it to guard our mouths. How often we close our mouths too late, only after we have opened them wide and brought damage to ourselves or to others.
If we were truly honest about the failings of our tongues, we would cut each other much more slack. And we would be far more serious in seeking, by God’s enabling, to guard our own mouth and banish ruinous words. What a beautiful display of grace that would be to our friends, family, and neighbors! Jesus is the only perfect man; He never sinned with His words (James 3:2). If we seek to be like Him in this way, perhaps we will find more people marveling at the compassionate, tender, and kind words that came from His very lips (Luke 4:22).
Though your words and your works in and of themselves achieve nothing for you before the gate of heaven, they are evidence that your profession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is true. What will it look like for you to take seriously these words: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19, NIV)?
2For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. 3If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 4Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.
How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life,1 and set on fire by hell.2 7For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers,3 these things ought not to be so. 11Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.
Get the Program, Devotional, and Bible Reading Plan delivered daily right to your inbox.