If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. – James 1:26 (NLT)
As Christians we commonly know and follow biblical guidelines on most areas of our life e.g. relationships – don’t be unequally yoked with unbelievers; money – you shall not serve God and mammon; holiness – be ye holy as your lord is holy. But how many of us knew there are guidelines to how we use our mouth and our speech?
I for one knew there should be but I never actually took them to heart or seriously until one day when in the place of prayer I felt God convicting me of my speech. To be clear; I don’t use curse words and hardly insult people but I came to see that I speak unnecessarily, joking and using vain words casually.
Being choleric; one of my many strengths (and sometimes weakness) is that I like to air my opinion and say something on an issue especially when I think my opinion really matters. I also like to think of myself as funny so am usually the clown of the group – the one trying to make everyone smile and turning everything into a thing of laughter. While all these can be great and have its really useful sides; it becomes a problem when you just can’t sit still and keep quiet. There have been days when I start out with good plans and to-dos just to see that at the end of the day I didn’t achieve anything and what have I been doing all day? Talking!
It struck me strongly just last week when at a work training, my table group managed to solve a trick question and someone from another table was asking a question about the answer; I jokingly said never mind, it’s for smart people only. While it was funny to the entire class and everyone laughed about it, I felt I had hurt the guy. I definitely didn’t mean it to insult him, I was just joking but still I had hurt someone. I apologized but I regretted that I ever made the joke.
We need to check our speech on a moment by moment basis and to see if they line up with these guidelines on speech;
- Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)
- Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving – Ephesians 5:4 (NIV)
- Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. – James 1:19 (NLT)
As much as it’s important we know when to speak and what to say; it’s also important we know when to be silent – there is a time to speak and a time to be silent (Ecc 3:17)
When are those pertinent times we should be silent? (culled from Covenant Capital WhatsApp Group)
- In the heat of anger – A quick-tempered person does foolish things, and the one who devises evil schemes is hated. (Prov 14:17)
- When you don’t have all the facts – To answer before listening– that is folly and shame. (Prov 18:13)
- When you haven’t verified the story – But never put a person to death on the testimony of only one witness. There must always be two or three witnesses (Deut 17:6)
- If your words will offend a weaker person – So because of your superior knowledge, a weak believer for whom Christ died will be destroyed. (1 Cor 8:11)
- When you are tempted to make light of holy things – Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. (Eccl 5:2)
- When you are tempted to joke about sin – Fools mock at making amends for sin, but goodwill is found among the upright. (Prov 14:9)
- If you would be ashamed of your words later – All the words of my mouth are just; none of them is crooked or perverse. (Prov 8:8)
- If your words would convey the wrong impression – The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered. (Prov 17:27)
- If the issue is none of your business – Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy (Prov 14:10)
- When you are tempted to tell an outright lie – Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips.
- If your words will damage someone else’s reputation – Scoundrels create trouble; their words are a destructive blaze. (Prov 16:27)
- If your words will damage a friendship – A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends (Prov 16:28)
- When you are feeling critical – With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. (James 3:9)
- If you may have to eat your words later – The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences. (Prov 18:21)
- When you are supposed to be working instead – All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. (Prov 14:23)
Watch your tongue and keep your mouth shut, and you will stay out of trouble – Prov 21:23 NLT
I pray that this becomes our prayer – Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! – (Psalms 14:13) and surely he would answer!