Guest Author: Kevin Langford
Nothing is more frequently opened by mistake than our mouth. Can you relate? Can you recall saying something only to regret it? The great poet Robert Frost once said,
“Half the world is composed of people who have something to say and cannot say it. The other half is composed of people who have nothing to say and keep on saying it anyway.”
We all have trouble controlling our tongue. James 1:26 says, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” The Bible puts a premium on our ability to control our speech. Proverbs 13:3 conveys, “Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” Peter added, “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). Possibly the most widely known passage involving our speech is found in James 3:3-4. “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.”
Scripture implores us to avoid ungodly speech at all cost. Notice what it says about gossip. “For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperers, quarreling ceases” (Proverbs 26:20). Several years ago, I worked as a youth minister. There were a few kids in the youth group who were constantly fueling controversy. When asked about it, one of the teens admitted they loved to fuel drama! Sadly, it wasn’t until these kids graduated and went off to college, that the youth group was able to enjoy a time of peace. The proverb writer goes on to convey that gossip cannot be trusted. “Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered” (Proverbs 11:13). I once read and have since learned, if someone is willing to share someone else’s confidential information with ME; they are also willing to share my confidential information with someone ELSE.
In spite of these teachings, far too often, we too, have trouble controlling our words. So how do we get rid of ungodly speech?
Realize We Are Accountable For Our Words (Matthew 12:36-37)
I must admit this truth has often struck fear within me. I find it somewhat frightening to be reminded of the fact that I must give an account for EVERY word that I have ever said. Some have wondered, “How this can be?” I don’t know, but somehow God will retrieve our words. Others have said, “EVERY word? That will take forever!” What is the rush…we have all eternity.
Study and Memorize Scriptures Concerning Our Speech.
Consider writing out scriptures such as Proverbs 13:3; 29:20; and Ephesians 4:29. Place them on sticky notes on your bathroom mirror or on your computer monitor for frequent viewing.
Refuse to Give a Bad Report About Anyone You Have Not Confronted (Matthew 18:15)
An old gospel preacher had a proven system to help destroy gossip and misunderstandings. If anyone came up to him and began to share something negative about another person, he would simply tell them to hold on. He would then get the person whom was being discussed to resolve any dispute. It is never easy to confront another person. However; we know it is both commanded and accompanied with the promise that our Lord will be there with us as we strive to work out our differences (Mt 18:20).
Abstain From All Forms of Lying.
Lying comes in various forms. a) Blatant Untruths, b) Exaggeration, and c) Distortion. My children constantly exaggerate things when they don’t get their way. “You NEVER let me watch television,” “You NEVER let me go outside,” “You NEVER let me…” Similarly, we do the same thing with our spouses when we argue. “You NEVER do anything for me!” When we distort the truth we bend facts to fit our needs. I heard an old preacher’s story about a man who wanted to get out of work so he could study. He asked his wife, “What’s for dinner?” She said fish. He went into the bedroom, lay on the bed, and tossed the frozen fish up into the air. He then told his wife to call his boss and tell him that he was flat on his back and just threw up his dinner! What he said was true but distorted into a lie.
Develop the Art of Silence (Proverbs 17:27-28)
You will never have to explain what you don’t say.
Fill Your Mind with Positive Input (Matthew 12:34-35)
Our speech is a direct reflection of what we are putting into our hearts and minds. Paul encourages the Philippian church to focus on the things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable (Phil 4:8). It has also been said, “Garbage In/ Garbage Out.” I recently heard, “Godly In/Godly Out.”
Elect to Find Something Good in Others
Far too often we only see the fault in others and don’t see the good in them. When we focus on the positives, we are doing our part in encouraging them and helping turn a negative situation into a positive.
Poor speech is a result of a hostile attitude towards someone else. It is a heart condition that needs to be tended to. My prayer in the mentioned suggestions is that they will serve to be a source of strength and encouragement to you. If you have any other recommendations on how to improve our speech, please share them in the comments below. May God bless you richly!
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In Rest in Green Pastures, ten shepherds offer encouragement, help, and hope for common struggles faced by church leaders. Topics covered include the New Testament’s vision of a shepherd’s role and responsibilities, the training and appointment of new elders, and the role of an elders’ wife. Written by men with a combined seventy years of service as overseers, Rest in Green Pastures offers a helping hand to those tasked with the most important job in the world.