The power of the tongue – a power that must be tamed!
Words are formidable. They can build someone up, or they can tear them down. They can stir up anger or they can soothe the soul. We know that words have the power to bring life as well as death.
James 3:5 (NIV) tells us “Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.”
But what else does the Bible say about taming the tongue?
Today, I'd like to share 15 Bible verses about controlling your tongue because let's face it, this is a skill all of us could improve on.
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Understanding the Power of the Tongue
What does the Bible say about the tongue being powerful?
James wrote that no man tame the tongue. He went on to say it was an “unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8). His words seem a bit dramatic but what did James mean when he said the tongue was full of poison? Let's spend a little time looking at the original language to see if we can unpack his meaning.
The word translated as poison is the Greek iós, ( pronounced ee-os'). It's could also have been translated as venom, the kind emitted by serpents. Ouch!
Consider that for a second. The tongue is being accused of spilling forth the same sort of venom that a snake does. If you think about it, you'll realize James is right.
Maybe you still think about the words someone said to you that almost destroyed you. Words that took years to shake off, or maybe are still trying to forget. Words hurt.
And they do so in a way that's under the surface leaving no visible wounds. But the impact they have can be life-changing and not necessarily in a good way.
Maybe you've said something that you wished after the fact you could have swallowed. You said something you didn't mean or used your words deliberately to hurt someone. The tongue is powerful. It can spew deadly poison but it can also speak life, healing, and health.
Bible Verses About Controlling Your Tongue
God knew that because of sin we'd struggle with this issue, that's why there are so many Bible verses about controlling your tongue. Here are just a few of them:
- But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. (James 3:8 NKJV)
- Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29 ESV
- For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit;” 1 Peter 3:10 ESV
- Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. Colossians 4:6 ESV
These Bible verses remind us that while it is difficult to control our tongues, it's possible for us to make an effort to choose our words wisely. Would you rather be known as the woman who speaks venom or the one whose speech is always gracious?
If that's not enough incentive, I hope these words spoken by Jesus are,
- “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” Matthew 15:11 ESV
- “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37 ESV
Jesus wasn't pulling punches. The word translated as defile is the Greek word koinóō, (pronounced koy-no'-o”). Koinóō means to make (or consider) profane (ceremonially). It could also mean call common or pollute. For people who have been called to be holy (Leviticus 19:2), common is no longer an acceptable state of being. Yet Jesus says our words can do that. Our words can make us common.
And if that wasn't bad enough, our words can have an impact on where we spend eternity. My friend, we have to get better at controlling our tongues! What we say can have a significant impact on the reward that we receive when Jesus returns.
Proverbs About Controlling Your Tongue
A proverb contains a bit of advice in a way that's easy to remember and that makes a lot of sense. But have you ever wondered how something becomes a proverb? How many times does a piece of advice have to be said before it is absorbed into a culture as a proverb?
I don't know, but I imagine quite a lot. There are 19 references to the tongue in the books of Proverbs. Now that doesn't sound like a lot, especially when you consider that there are 915 verses in the book of Proverbs. Still, that's more than 2 percent of a book on one topic. That should tell us that God really wants us to learn how to control our tongues.
And look at some of what is being said:
- Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble. Proverbs 21:23 ESV
- A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1 ESV
- There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Proverbs 12:18 ESV
- Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. Proverbs 18:21 ESV
- A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit. Proverbs 15:4 ESV
I think we've all experienced it, the right words can soothe your spirit or diffuse anger but the wrong ones can be as explosive as dynamite.
Psalms About Taming the Tongue
I absolutely love the Book of Psalms! It is filled with so much wisdom, including scripture about keeping guard over our mouth!
James was right when he said no one could tame the tongue, but if you only listen to James' words, controlling your tongue may seem like an impossible task. But all is not lost. We may not be able to control the tongue, but we know Someone who can! This should be our daily prayer:
- Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! Psalm 141:3 ESV
Instead of using our tongues to dismantle and destroy, let's use them to praise the Lord. If we spend enough time praising God, we won't have any left to speak destructive words.
- The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice. Psalm 37:30 ESV
- Then my tongue shall tell of your righteousness and of your praise all the day long. Psalm 35:28 ESV
Words are powerful. As Christians, we must understand the power of the tongue and meditate on these Bible verses about taming the tongue so that we always use our words to build others up and speak life into them!
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