Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut….Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent….Fools have no interest in understanding. They only want to air their own opinions….Watch your tongue and keep your mouth shut, and you will stay out of trouble. (Proverbs 10:19, 17:28, 18:2, 21:23 NLT)
I am teaching on “Controlling Our Tongue” at Christ Presbyterian Church in Houston. Here are some more excerpts that I’ve used in counseling and prison ministry. This builds on Tongue Control.
Careless Words are Impossible to Undo
Chuck Swindol told of a woman who maliciously gossiped about another family in the village. When she found out that she was wrong about this family, she had a change of heart. She went to the village’s wise person and asked how she could take back all the damage she had done. The wise one told her to go home, kill her chickens, pluck the feathers, and put them into a bag. Then she was to scatter all the feathers she had plucked and revisit the wise person. The gossipy woman did as she was told.
When she got back to the wise person, they told her, “now go back and pick up all the feathers you have unleashed.” The woman was shocked and said, “I can’t! By now the wind has carried the feathers throughout the village and beyond.” The wise person then told her, “So it is with our careless words. They are like the feathers scattered in the wind. We cannot retrieve them.” The woman was brokenhearted and finally saw the hurt her words had caused. From that day onward, she resolved to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.1
Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips. (Psalm 141:3)
The T-H-I-N-K Filter for Talking
Scripture contains hundreds of verses about controlling our tongues by the help of God the Holy Spirit. Relying on Him, let’s speak only what is True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary, and Kind. This is a good outline to study some of the Bible’s teaching on our talking.
Speak Only the Truth
Scripture Overview: God’s 6th Commandment, spoken aloud by Him at Mount Sinai says: You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. In Proverbs, the Lord also says that He hates a lying tongue, a false witness who pours out lies, and a person who stirs up conflict in the community. Even Jesus’ enemies said: Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Christ’s Apostle Paul wrote: Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the Head, that is, Christ….Each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor.2
Comments: God (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) cannot lie, while Satan is a liar and the father of lies. So, among other things, this means:
We must avoid listening to and spreading gossip.3
We must slander no one, be peaceable and considerate, and always gentle toward everyone.4
We must promote, protect, and rejoice in the good reputation of others.5
We must be sincere with others.6
We must put the best light on their failings and overlook many things.7
We must cover the problems and failings of others with love.8
We must give them the benefit of doubt.9
We must freely acknowledge people’s talents, skills, and gifts.10
We must listen to good comments about others and be careful about believing bad comments.
We should discourage flattery.11
We should keep the promises and commitments we make.12
We should focus our thoughts, words, and lives on whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.13
We must not call evil good or good evil.14
We must not wrongly remain silent when our words can help others.15
We must not jump to conclusions about their intentions, words, and actions.16
We must not exaggerate our own accomplishments and minimize those of others.17
We must not conceal, excuse, or rationalize our sinful behavior.18
We must not listen to or spread rumors.19
Gossip is Like Barnacles
Barnacles (balanus glandula) are sticky little crustaceans related to crabs, lobsters, and shrimps who latch on to hard surfaces. Author Stephen Mansfield studied how barnacles slow down sea vessels and compared this to the harmful impact sins of the tongue. Our words can hurt people and harm our witness for Christ. Mansfield wrote:
Barnacles can slow down ships by as much as 40%.
Barnacles can get inside engines and can be added weight on the hull.
Barnacles can actually crack the hull of smaller vessels.
Barnacles diminish the aerodynamics of the boat.
The number of barnacles multiply rapidly due to their constant reproduction.
The US Navy spends $500 million a year to scrape barnacles off ships.20
Do you see the parallels with our speech? No wonder the Lord says: Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of God our Creator.21 Faultfinding, gossip, spreading rumors, not covering over people’s failings in love slows down the mission of Christ in the world and hinders healthy relationships. No wonder Jesus says: Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good words and deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven.
Prayer: Father, You are the God of love. Make us more and more like you. Keep us from unwholesome talk and help us to speak only what is loving and helpful for building others up according to their needs. Help us to bless and benefit those we speak to. Make our my words edifying, encouraging, and comforting to others. Help us to glorify You in our speech. Amen.
To be continued.
Notes (various Bible translations used): 1 James 1:19. 2 Exodus 30:16; Prov 6:16-19; Mark 2:14; Eph 4:15,25. 3 Prov 16:28, 20:19. 4 Titus 3:2. 5 Prov 20:11, 22:1. 6 1 Peter 1:22. 7 Prov 12:16, 19:11. 8 Prov 10:12, 17:9; 1 Pet:7-8. 9 1 Cor 13:7. 10 Prov 27:2, 31:28. 11 Prov 26:24-28. 12 Psalm 15:4. 13 Phil 4:8-9. 14 Isaiah 5:20. 15 Prov 31:8-9. 16 Prov 18:13, 25:8; Luke 6:37. 17 Rom 12:3; Prov 11:2. 18 Prov 28:13; 1 John 1:9. 19 Exodus 23:1; Prov 26:20. 20 Stephen Mansfield, “4 Steps to Kill Gossip,” Entre Leadership Podcast #303 (1-27-19). 21 Col 3:9-10.