They called President Calvin Coolidge, “Silent Cal,” because he was a man of few words. He famously said, “I have never been hurt by something I never said. I have been thinking a lot about our speech this week as I prepare to preach about, “Tame The Tongue.” Our Bible reading plan that we are preaching through this year has us in Proverbs for two Sundays, and there are over 60 references to the use of the tongue in Proverbs, over 150 references in Proverbs if you include references to the mouth and lips. In general, it is true that the Bible is filled with warnings about the use of the tongue. Because the Bible addresses this so much, it is clearly a prevalent problem.
Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Unwholesome talk includes profanity, gross sexual talk, and inappropriate words. In this category we must include lying, slander, critical speech, harsh words, insults, sarcasm and ridicule. Paul makes is clear that if it tears down rather than builds up, it is best left unsaid.
Why is this so critical? Jesus indicated in Matthew 12:34 that we speak out of the overflow of our hearts. Behind what we say is the condition of our hearts. What we say is like the dashboard of the car, signaling what is going in deep inside of the engine. Our words clearly communicate what is going on in the deepest parts of us. That is why David prayed, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)
As that Ephesians 4:29 passage makes clear, the tongue also has the capacity to do tremendous
good. We must major in building others up by saying words that benefit them.
We would all do well to pray the words of David in Psalm 141:3, “Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.”