Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips. Psalm 141:3
(You may have noticed that there are two versions of the post, “Guard Your Mouth”. One is G-rated, which is suitable for anyone to read. This one is R-rated because of violence and mature themes. When I started writing, I had the G-rated version in mind. I like to introduce people to scripture and usually in a humorous way. However, as I was preparing the “Just Say Know” Bible study, things changed. As I read scripture, I began to understand more fully what the Bible was saying about the destructive power of the tongue when it is unguarded. “Coincidentally”, as I was writing this post, I had two long phone conversations with people who have had their lives and those around them drastically altered by their inability to control what comes out of their mouth. What I share in this post, I felt was too strong and very different from how I normally write. But I felt compelled to share it anyway and decided the best way to do this was posting an additional version.)
I don’t know about you. But I don’t know how much more of the presidential campaigning I can take. Whenever it is election time, I literally get sick to my stomach when I see the television ads, TV and radio news coverage, and debates. We call it mud-slinging but that is a tremendous understatement. I think the term “scorched earth” is way more appropriate. I find myself asking, was there ever a time when the candidates just debated the issues
without personally tearing each other down? I cringe when I hear the hurtful things that are said about each candidate. Unfortunately, it isn’t just the candidates “slinging mud” these days. I have witnessed some surprisingly cruel discussions about candidate’s personal dispositions from people who normally seem to be pretty decent. (Interestingly, in classical latin, the word ‘discussion’ meant: to strike asunder, break up, smash apart, scatter, and disperse. But in post-classical times it evolved to its present meaning: to investigate, examine, debate.When discussing politics we seem to regress!) Recently I was discussing the “mud-slinging” phenomenon with a friend when I felt extremely convicted. Just that morning, I had made a very unkind remark about a public servant, who had been very impatient with me when I asked for help. As I thought about it, I began to recall many other times I had said things that were very hurtful.
I decided to write this post knowing that I am not the only person who struggles with the words that come out of my mouth. I don’t know to what degree, but the Bible informs us that even King David struggled. And it caused him to write, “Set a guard over my mouth, keep watch over the door of my lips.” and “I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth . . .” According to the Bible in James 3:8, “No man can tame the tongue.” You may be strong in some respects of guarding your words, but maybe you struggle with others. James Melton wrote a great article, Sins of the Tongue, in which he dealt with every kind of struggle of the tongue. The Lying Tongue, Flattering Tongue, Proud Tongue, Overused Tongue, Swift Tongue, Backbiting Tongue, Talebearing Tongue, Cursing Tongue, Piercing Tongue, and Silent Tongue.
Melton also discussed in his article how the Bible compares the tongue to various weapons. This brought to my memory a song, that I often listened to as a teen. It is by Paul Clark and entitled Another Victim. Here are some of the lyrics:
Last night the children heard the noise
The sound came blastin’ through the wall.
Then came the silence and they became afraid.
When they opened the door, their mom was running down the hall.
They said they thought it had been done by a bullet from a gun,
but the words from a tongue cut the heart of Another Victim.
Somebody tell me where the problem lies.
Somebody tell me what’s the deal.
Somebody tell me when they’ll draw the line
’cause far too many people are needin’ to be healed.
The time has come to lay down the gun in your tongue.
Pull the root from your pride
and abide in the love of God.
The song kind of conjures up images of physical domestic violence. I came across this picture which I believe really illustrates what the Bible says about the destructive power of the tongue.
Like the photo above, the Bible is very vivid in its description of what harm the tongue can do.
- The tongue has the power of life and death. Proverbs 18:21
- Reckless Words pierce like a sword. Proverbs 12:18
- The tongue is a fire. James 3:6
- The tongue is full of deadly poison. James 3:8
- A deceitful tongue crushes the spirit. Proverbs 15:4
- A lying tongue hates those it hurts. Proverbs 26:28
- Telling lies about others is as harmful as hitting them with an ax, wounding them with a sword, or shooting them with a sharp arrow. Proverbs 25:18 NLT
I think if we could actually see the emotional and spiritual wounds our words leave on the hearer we would be more restrained. I have added a link below that I am warning you is very graphic. It shows wounds from weapons which the Bible compares with the tongue. If you are easily made queasy by the sight of blood you will not want to view this. My motive in posting this link was not to be gross or gruesome. But I believe that the writers of scripture were inspired when they compared the unguarded tongue to these weapons. Viewing these pictures will make you more sober and mindful of the power of the tongue.
After viewing the link pictures, you will be encouraged to know that our tongues have the power of life as well!
- The lips of the righteous nourish many. Proverbs 10:21
- The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life. Proverbs 15:4
- The mouth of the righteous man utters wisdom. Psalm 37:30
- The tongue of the wise brings healing. Proverbs 12:18
- Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Proverbs 16:24
- He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity. Proverbs 21:23
(Please keep in mind that the following suggestions really were meant for the G-rated version. So they may seem a little simplistic.)
So, how do we put a guard on our mouth? First, we should pray just as David did. We need God’s help. Remember, “No man can tame the tongue.” But with the help of the Holy Spirit, our words can be life-giving and pleasing to God.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalms 19:14
Second, a practical way we can guard our mouth is to simply THINK before we speak. Before we let a word out of our mouth, we must ask ourselves these questions.
Is it Truthful?
Is it Helpful?
Is it Inspirational?
Is it Necessary?
Is it Kind?
As I was writing this post, I was made aware that there are some who are reading this that have been severely impacted by the inability to control and guard your tongue. For you, it is not just a struggle but a raging battle. This post has helped you to see that your words are not harmless. Or, you may be the victim of some very destructive and even abusive words and you have carried your pain and hidden your wounds. If you fall into either category, whomever you are, PLEASE get help. Talk to somebody, a trusted friend, counselor or cleric. If you want to know more about what the Bible says about the tongue, check out the Bible Study link below. My prayers are with you. LH
“JUST SAY KNOW” Bible Study
Click on the link below for this week’s Bible Study.