Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mind your tongue...

That’s something I’ve heard several times in my life, maybe not exactly that way but something similar. Maybe it was “Boy, you better watch your mouth” – a warning from my father that I was perilously close to danger; as sobering to me as if I were in the Texas bush and heard the tell-tale warning of a rattlesnake which has made my blood run cold hearing it. You know when you hear a rattlesnake, your first instinct ought to be to freeze, figure out where the critter is and back off from it very slowly! As scary as my dad’s warning was when I was a boy, or that old rattle from that viper shook me in my boots, Jesus issued a warning in Matthew 12:36 that ought to cause all of us to freeze and it really ought to scare the living daylights out of us. He said simply: “But I say to you that every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.” Wow! Every idle word? Is He serious? Yes He is. The Lord is going to hold each of us accountable for our speech some day and I shudder to think about all the stupid things I’ve said in my lifetime that I’ll have to answer for with Jesus. Oh how thankful I am for the blood of Jesus Christ that cleanses us from all sin! Proverbs 21:23 wisely advises “Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles.” The Apostle James devotes nearly all of chapter 3 of his letter to the difficulty of taming our tongues. We Christians can sometimes be so self righteous thinking we’re not breaking the 10 Commandments but we say pretty much anything and everything we want and sin with a poisonous tongue that spews venom that would make a cobra proud.

The reason I’m bringing this up is that in the last several days, I’ve gotten feedback about some things people have said to others that grieved my heart and if they would grieve my sinful heart that is sometimes calloused to such things, I know it grieves the very heart of God. In one case a lady was having a tough day in her grief and as she’s coming to worship, someone asked her casually how she was doing and she honestly said she was “just leaning on Jesus.” The person she was speaking to simply laughed at her. While that’s not direct speech, the impact of that response spoke volumes to a lady in distress. In another case I was made aware of, a woman who’d been attending church regularly for a lengthy period of time but had yet to join the church was told that if she wasn’t going to join she had no business attending! How in the world can I engage that woman whose no longer attending now?  One of my daughters shared with me several weeks ago of a verbal beating she received from an acquaintance at her church in Texas that really hurt her feelings. Folks, we need to be reminded to mind our tongues. My dad also used to tell me that it was better to keep your mouth shut and let people think you’re a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.  I think that wisdom might come from Proverbs 17:28 “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” The stupidity bug can bite any of us if we’re not carefully minding our tongues.  Sometimes what you’re wanting to say may be correct but the time to say it is not right.  With most people and how they use their tongues, the approach is usually “ready, fire, aim.”


Let me encourage you to realize that words have power and words have meaning. What you say, when you say it and how you say it have great impact on people for good or bad. When you come to church or wherever you go; to school, to work, to the gym, the store; people are hurting. Behind the smiles and superficial responses of “I’m fine”, people are really hurting and struggling as they have life and the hardships of it beating on them. I believe if Christians began to mind their tongues, we would see revival break out in short order that would sweep like wild fire when we used our speech to encourage and edify people who are hurting, even if we don’t know they are. We’ve been studying through the Book of Ephesians in worship on Sunday mornings and it addresses this in 4:29 “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. The very next verse in 4:30 warns us not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God in direct context of what we say. (I’ve also heard some questioning of why our Bible Study lessons are now going to be from Ephesians as well this quarter – Hmm, maybe the Lord wants us to study it in depth until we get it right?) Contrary to the children’s’ rhyme “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”; words do bring hurt and heartache to people at home, at work, at school and sadly at church as well. I pray that will not be how you use your tongue. I pray that the word of Christ would dwell in you richly in all wisdom (Col.3:16) and that when you uncoil your tongue to speak, what the hearer hears is a soothing balm of Godly wisdom that edifies and builds up their weary soul, that soothes their heartaches like a bottle of aloe vera cools a sunburn or brings healing to a cut. I think I’ll shut up now, and mind my tongue from my little corner of the world to yours…

Ralph Green

Senior Pastor, Calvary Baptist Church


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