Taming the Tongue

“The things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man unclean” Matthew 15:18

Someone once observed that the tongue is in a wet place and can easily slip. Someone else observed that the tongue is the world’s smallest, but largest trouble maker. No wonder God put the tongue behind the bars of the teeth and walled it in with the mouth. For in so doing He reminds us that one of the greatest challenges we face in life is the taming of the tongue.

Which begs the question. How do we tame the tongue?

It begins, according to James 3:3-4, when we put the tongue under the control of a strong hand. Just as a jockey rides a powerful stallion using a bridle and bit, and a pilot steers a ship using a helm connected to a rudder, so too, the tongue must be controlled by someone beyond itself.

But who is that someone? Who can be trusted to tame the tongue? It can’t be you or I. When left to our own devices there’s no limit to what we can say. We have the old nature wanting to control us and make us sin. And there are circumstances around us that can lead us into saying things we know we shouldn’t say. As James 3:2,8 tells us, “We all stumble in many ways … no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil full of deadly poison.” Thus someone else is needed, someone greater, someone perfect, someone who is never at fault in what he says. And the only One who fits that criterion is God.

Yes, in order to tame the tongue you need to submit yourself to God. And in order to submit yourself to God, you need to yield your whole life to Him. For ultimately, the problem isn’t the tongue; it’s the heart. When something’s wrong with the heart, there will be something wrong with the tongue. As we well know, what comes out of us is what’s in us. As it says in Matthew 15:18, “The things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man unclean.”

There’s the rub. There is no other way for the tongue to be tamed unless you ask God’s Spirit to take control. The heart is the key to right speech. When God is Lord of the heart, then He’s Lord of the lips too. “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” Matthew 12:34.

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