GUARDING THE TONGUE
By Wayne S. Walker
"I said, ‘I will guard my ways, lest I sin with my tongue: I will restrain my mouth with a muzzle, while the wicked are before me" (Psalm 39:1). There are many ways to sin with the tongue. There is taking the Lord’s name in vain with cursing and swearing (Exodus 20:7, Matthew 26.74). There is vulgar and obscene language such as corrupt communication and coarse jesting (Ephesians 4:29, 5:4). However, probably the easiest way that most of us sin with the tongue is by the little digs, the sarcastic comments, the angry words that we sometimes speak, usually in unguarded moments and most often to those whom we deem dearest to us.
From a personal standpoint, I know that it is something that I have to guard against. We all become angry in certain situations. It is a natural human emotional reaction, but we have to control it so that it does not lead us to sin. It is so easy in anger to say and even do things that are hurtful to others and just make the situation worse. I know that there are times when I have been upset at something and said unkind things to my wife or my sons. In such cases, I just have to stop and say, "I am sorry. I was wrong. Please forgive me." Then I must ask the Lord to help me do better. "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger" (Proverbs 15:1).
The Bible tells us that the tongue is very likely the most difficult member of the body to control. "For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body….Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles!…But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison….Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren these things ought not so to be" (James 3:2-10).
As the song says, it should be our desire that "Angry words! O let them never From the tongue unbridled slip. May the heart’s best impulse ever Check them e’er they soil the lip" (Sacred Selections for the Church, #112). The Bible has a lot more to say about the tongue and how we sin with it, perhaps even moreso than any other member of the body. May we always remember what Jesus told us. "But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned" (Matthew 12:36-37).