Proverbs 15:4New International Version (NIV)
4 The soothing tongue is a tree of life,
but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.
The tongue is a muscular organ in the mouth. The tongue is vital for chewing and swallowing food, as well as for speech. Speech is primarily defined as the expression of or the ability to express thoughts and feelings by articulate sounds. Speech refers to the actual sound of spoken language, while language refers to a whole system of words and symbols; written, spoken or expressed with gestures and body language—that is used to communicate meaning. The tongue is regarded herein to its secondary function of speaking. It is important to note that speaking or speech in all dictionary definitions is explained as the expression of thoughts and feelings. In other words, what we express in words or speech is what is already formed in our minds. In this context, the Bible refers to the mind as the heart. The tongue can consciously or unconsciously work with whatever is formed in the heart. The tongue can make or mar. It can heal or harm.
Power in the Tongue
The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit (Proverbs 18:21 NIV). As Christians, we can use our tongue (our words) to like a sail to steer ourselves into God’s destiny. On the offence, we can also use our tongues to place curses on our adversaries. The enemy who wages war on us in a bid to capture our soul is Satan. Recall what Joshua did with his words:
26 Joshua swore a solemn oath at that time:
Cursed before God is the man
who sets out to rebuild this city Jericho.
He’ll pay for the foundation with his firstborn son,
he’ll pay for the gates with his youngest son.
27 God was with Joshua. He became famous all over the land.
Joshua 6:26-27 (MSG)
The incident between the Apostles and Bar-Jesus was another instance where the tongue was in use to pronounce a curse on the wizard:
6-7 They travelled the length of the island, and at Paphos came upon a Jewish wizard who had worked himself into the confidence of the governor, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man not easily taken in by charlatans. The wizard’s name was Bar-Jesus. He was as crooked as a corkscrew.
7-11 The governor invited Barnabas and Saul in, wanting to hear God’s Word firsthand from them. But Dr. Know-It-All (that’s the wizard’s name in plain English) stirred up a ruckus, trying to divert the governor from becoming a believer. But Saul (or Paul), full of the Holy Spirit and looking him straight in the eye, said, “You bag of wind, you parody of a devil—why, you stay up nights inventing schemes to cheat people out of God. But now you’ve come up against God himself, and your game is up. You’re about to go blind—no sunlight for you for a good long stretch.” He was plunged immediately into a shadowy mist and stumbled around, begging people to take his hand and show him the way.
12 When the governor saw what happened, he became a believer, full of enthusiasm over what they were saying about the Master.
Acts 13:6-12The Message (MSG)
How Should a Christian Manage His Tongue?
- Be Careful in Speaking: The Bible states that words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing (Proverbs 12:18). Recall the story of David and Nabal in the Bible:
9-11 David’s young men went and delivered his message word for word to Nabal. Nabal tore into them, “Who is this David? Who is this son of Jesse? The country is full of runaway servants these days. Do you think I’m going to take good bread and wine and meat freshly butchered for my sheepshearers and give it to men I’ve never laid eyes on? Who knows where they’ve come from?”
12-13 David’s men got out of there and went back and told David what he had said. David said, “Strap on your swords!” They all strapped on their swords, David and his men, and set out, four hundred of them. Two hundred stayed behind to guard the camp.
1 Samuel 25:9-13The Message (MSG)
Christians ought to carefully pick their words, appreciating that any reckless speaking will harm their hearers. We cannot tell our listeners how much Jesus loves them during evangelism when we are associated with careless speaking. Someone shared with me how a born-again Christian in his workplace was notorious for quarrels. During a bicker with a colleague, she had lashed out that the said colleague and her husband would die in a motor accident. That singular incident made other coworkers to avoid her and regard her as a frustrated woman who was hiding under the cloak of Christianity. Well-spoken words bring satisfaction; well-done work has its own reward (Proverbs 12: 14 MSG).
- Abstain from evil communication (1 Corinthians 15: 33; 1 Peter 3:10; Proverbs 18: 21) Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man (Matthew 15: 11). And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell (James 3: 6 NKJV).
- Make all diligence to always give a gentle answer (Proverbs 15:1). A soft answer is sincere words spoken to bring about peace while flattering words are exaggerations set out to achieve the selfish
- Determine to be a blessing by your words (Colossians 4: 6). Never tear people down by your words.
- Mean what you say and say what you mean (Mark 11: 23)
- Strive to be wise (Proverbs 10: 19)
Words are akin to jewels, and they should be carefully weighed before they are spoken. Character perfection is tied to the ability of a person to manage his tongue (James 3: 2 GNT). As Christians, we should never justify flippancy in our utterances. We should rather decide to manage our language, with the help of God via prayers.
“You are the master of your unspoken words, but a slave to the words you have spoken.” – Winston Churchill