Every day I get a reminder of one of my biggest, most consistent struggles. Sometimes it’s my tone of voice, and other times it’s the words I use. Maybe it takes the form of exaggerating the truth or slandering a friend or family member. Every day I battle the words I use and the way I say them.And I know I’m not alone.
And I know I’m not alone.
Whether you’re old or young, rich or poor, male or female, single or married, you struggle with the words you use and your tongue. It’s something we all have in common regardless of our season of life or color of our skin.
In Part 1 of this series on the tongue and our words, I shared 4 reasons why we need to be cautious about what we say. According to James 3:1-12, the tongue is powerful, destructive, uncontrollable, and revealing of what’s in our hearts.
When we hear these four characteristics, we probably think of the negative aspects they create in our words and utterances of the tongue.
In today’s post, I share the positive side of the four characteristics of the tongue. At the end of the post, I’ll share some practical suggestions in how to best honor God and love others with the tongue God has given us and the words we use.
1. The tongue is POWERFUL (James 3:3-5a):
- God created with His words (see Genesis 1). He created the heavens and the earth, water, the stars, animals, and human beings with His words. While you and I can’t create something out of nothing, think of the positive power our tongue can wield.
- We can share the gospel with others. How can we believe in God if we haven’t heard about Him (Romans 10:14-15)? Everything in my life changed when my friend Will Hall shared the gospel with me. He used the power of the tongue to share the truth that I so desperately needed to hear!
- One of the 5 Love Languages from Dr. Gary Chapman is words of affirmation from one person to another. Share some powerful words to build someone up (Ephesians 4:29).
2. The tongue is DESTRUCTIVE (James 3:5b-6):
- While we typically think of the negative side of destruction, the tongue and our words can help destroy false arguments and tear down lies. For instance, we use words to argue and debate. In essence, apologetics (defending the faith), is using the destructive power of the tongue and our words to destroy false arguments against the faith and against Christ.
- Our words can destroy lies we believe about ourselves. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 10:5, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…” In other words, when I believe lies about myself (i.e., I’m nothing but a fat, angry, pervert), the words of God and the words of others can destroy the lies I believe about myself.
3. The tongue is UNCONTROLLABLE (James 3:7-8):
- The fact that our tongues cannot be controlled or tamed provides a great reminder of what’s true about our entire being. We’re not under our own control. As a follower of Christ, I’m under the control of the Holy Spirit. I’m not my own – I was purchased at a very high price (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). This truth reminds me that I can’t do anything on my own, but keeps me dependent on the Lord.
- I’m reminded of the fact that I’m a new creation – the old has gone, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17). I no longer need to live as someone controlled by my selfish desires or the fallen world.
4. The tongue is REVEALING (James 3:9-12):
- What’s in your heart and what informs your words? As I shared in Part 1, what comes out of our mouths is an overflow of what’s in our hearts (Luke 6:45).
- When I fill my heart with truth from the Word or spend time with followers of Christ, I can speak words that reveal a powerful Savior. We can encourage others, share truth, love others when they don’t feel lovable, and comfort others when they need to be comforted.
So yes, the tongue is powerful, destructive, uncontrollable, and revealing. Use your tongue and your words to build others up instead of tearing them down.
To help keep this practical, here are a few suggestions on how to use your tongue and words for God’s glory:
- Encourage some friends this week. How can you use your words to build others up instead of tearing them down?
- What can you do to encourage them? Can you write them a note or give them a call?
- Write something with a pen and paper called a letter. Write a note, put it in an envelope, address it, put a stamp on it, and send it in the mail (excuse the sarcasm, but don’t you just love getting hand-written letters in the mail? Encourage someone today with a letter). I’ve heard of a pastor in Atlanta who writes three notes of encouragement every single day.
- Who’s the person you tend to tear down the most?
- For me, it’s my sons, especially my third one. He’s on the receiving end of much of my hurtful language/speech.
- What can you do today to encourage the person you most often tear down?
- Repent! Confess to God and others that you’ve allowed Satan to use your tongue for his purposes, not God’s.
- Don’t just confess, but forsake your actions and make some changes (Proverbs 28:13).
- Intentionally seek out the person who encourages you the most and thank them this week.
- What are you feeding yourself? What’s informing your heart? What informs your heart often informs what you say and the words and tone you use (Luke 6:45).
- Think about the music you listen to, books and websites you read, and movies and TV you watch. Does anything need to be cleaned up and removed from your life?
- Memorize and apply Ephesians 4:29 – “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.”
- How can you use your words and tongue this week to build others up instead of tearing them down?
- What practical suggestions can you share with other readers?