One of the most difficult disciplines of the Christian walk is bridling our tongues.
The way we speak about others is a leading indicator of our own spiritual condition. Ultimately, what comes out of our mouths reveals the character of our hearts.
God’s Word warns us of the tongue’s dangers. James writes, “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell” (Jas 3:6).
But God’s Word also assures us of the good our tongues can do as we use them “to give grace to those who hear,” and as our speech is used to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Eph 4:29, Heb 10:24).
Your tongue is a mighty force. Will you use it for good or for evil?
One of my heroes is Charles Simeon, Anglican minister of Holy Trinity Church in Cambridge, England from 1782-1836. (For a powerful, thoughtful biographical sketch of Simeon’s life, read and/or listen to this article by John Piper. Wow!).
Throughout his adult life Simeon contended with two great temptations to ungodly speech. On the one hand, he had a hot temper; in the heat of the moment was tempted to say things that could damage the reputation of Christ and his church. On the other hand, he continually faced unkind criticism and opposition because of his deep commitment to Jesus Christ and the evangelical faith. What a volatile situation: a inclination to anger put together with a hostile environment!
Well aware of this temptation to “evil speaking,” in a July 1817 letter Simeon wrote words immediately relevant to us today—
“The longer I live, the more I feel the importance of adhering to the rules which I have laid down for myself in relation to such matters.
“1st, to hear as little as possible what is to the prejudice of others.
“2nd, to believe nothing of the kind till I am absolutely forced to it.
“3rd, never to drink into the spirit of one who circulates an ill report.
“4th, always to moderate, as far as I can, the unkindness which is expressed towards others.
“5th, always to believe, that if the other side were heard a very different account would be given of the matter.
“I consider love as wealth; and as I would resist a man who should come to rob my house so would I a man who would weaken my regard for any human being.”
Let us renew our own like commitment to making our speech an instrument of God’s grace.
Let us join in praying, “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3).