Watch your Mouth

Watch Your Mouth

The great puritan pastor Thomas Brooks (1608-1680) spoke these informing words: “we know metals by their tinkling, and men by their talking.”

Isn’t it amazing how your words (though they may be few or many), can unveil your entire character? Usually you can guess what someone’s passion is by listening to what frequently comes from his or her lips. In addition to this, our words are not only revealing, but they can also be dangerous. Consider the following proverb, “When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise” ().

is a classic passage on the topic of speech. James begins by warning his readers that not many of them should become teachers, knowing that they “will be judged with greater strictness” (). This is a very important truth all preachers and teachers need to understand. To be negligent due to a lack of study or to be crass so as to “relate” or to get a response is unacceptable. Such actions ought not to mark the preacher of the word of God. The preacher and teacher will stand before God one day and give an account. With this in view, James goes on to provide four actions the tongue has the ability to do:

The Ability to Control

The Ability to Destroy 

The Ability to Poison 

The Ability to Bless and Curse

Though the tongue is small, it has the potential for great influence. This is why we must take great care in what we say. We should endeavour to be quick to hear and slow to speak (cf. ). The book of Proverbs has much so say about our speech. Though we could look at many, consider three sample principles to remember: Speaking too much can lead to trouble (); gentle speech can diffuse anger whereas harsh speech can provoke anger () and think before you speak (). These principles provide practical wisdom in the use of our words.

Words can build up or they can tear down. Our words are a powerful tool. For this reason, the believer must watch their mouth and make use of their words to the glory of God. For those who love the Lord Jesus Christ, let us look to our Lord for grace and speak those words which give Him the glory.

19 When words are many, transgression is not lacking,
but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.

3:1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For 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. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look 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. So 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! And 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, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

3:1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.

If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look 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. So 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!

So 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! And 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, and set on fire by hell.

For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;

19 When words are many, transgression is not lacking,
but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.

15:1 A soft answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.

13 If one gives an answer before he hears,
it is his folly and shame.

Published by

Andrew Courtis

Andrew Courtis

ANDREW - Serves as Pastor of Hills Bible Church. I am married to Dianne and we have three children (Kate, Emma and Jack). I was born and raised in Melbourne, moved to Adelaide to undertake theological studies (BMin.), and have completed additional studies with the Australian College of Theology (MATh.). I have served in pastoral ministry in both Melbourne and Sydney and am a qualified school teacher. I am committed to expository preaching and making the word of God known and understood.

2 thoughts on “Watch your Mouth”

  1. Hi Andrew,

    I agree very strongly with you on the power of words and the importance of the words that we use. There is incredible power to use words to strengthen, grow, challenge and encourage.

    However, I also completely disagree with the simplistic statement that Christians shouldn’t swear. I am not sure exactly what you were suggesting at when you stated that “to be crass so as to “relate” or to get a response is unacceptable. ” If you were using crass with the definition of “lacking sensitivity or due consideration” then yes I agree. However, if you were using crass in the sense of ‘crass language’ or swearing then I disagree.

    When I have spent time loving drug addicts, people who are suicidal or homeless teenage guys sometimes the use of the words which carry the strongest emotion or meaning are required. In today’s context those words are often ‘rude’. (I differentiate this from swearing at people, using swear words in anger or using swear words to demean others – all unacceptable)

    I want to see a generation of Christians who are committed to proclaiming and demonstrating the reign of God through Christ. This will involve rolling sleeves up and being real about the pain and needs in the world where Christ is desperately needed, not just being the nice people who use nice words.

    Thanks for the post.

    Mike

    1. Hi Mike. Your comment is appreciated! The point of this post was to express the importance of using our words to the glory of God. Because our words are powerful, we must make sure that what we say will not discredit our message or our Holy God.

      When talking to people who find themselves in sad situations (drugs, depression, or homelessness) or “secure” situations (wealthy, confident etc.), my concern is to speak words that bring the truth of God’s word to bear on their situation. Whatever my words are, depending on the context, they must reflect what the word of God says: “always gracious” and “seasoned with salt” (). By God’s grace, we must strive to use words that point to our holy and loving Lord.

      Regarding crass speech I have in mind those who neglect the principles found in Scripture regarding pure and sound speech. Crass speech comes in all sorts of forms. It can simply be a thoughtless or stupid approach in which someone doesn’t even carefully consider what they are saying. Furthermore, it can come in the form of using words or humour that dishonours God.

      I agree with your desire “to see a generation of Christians who are committed to proclaiming and demonstrating the reign of God through Christ.” I believe that this comes when we faithfully speak the words of Scripture with conviction and compassion. Speaking the gospel with clarity in accordance with biblical principles of speech is critical. In-order for this to be done, we don’t need to create a form of speech that is marked by the things we were redeemed from, but rather we must speak the words of an individual who is a new creation with a message of hope. May our words glorify God!

      Thanks again for your comment.

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