The Tongue: Life and Death

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Good morning and a sincere God bless you today. I have been praying that you will have a blessed and useful day as you walk in the light, as He is in the light. We’ve also been praying that our little broadcast will bring some spiritual help and comfort and encouragement from the Word of God.

This morning we’re going to talk to you about the tongue. We open with this little poem to introduce the subject.

If I knew that a word of mine,
A word not kind and true
Might leave its trace
On a loved one’s face,
I don’t think I’d speak it,
Would you?
If I knew the sting of a word
Might linger and leave its mark
With a deep dark scar
On a loved one’s heart,
I don’t think I’d speak that word,
Would you?

Author unknown

There’s a wonderful scripture about this thought on the tongue. God’s Word says, “Behold also the ships, which though they be so great and are driven of fierce winds, yet they turn about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. Even so, the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things.

“Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth. And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among your members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature, and it is set on fire of hell. For every kind of beast and of birds and of serpents, of things in the sea is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind. But the tongue can no man tame: It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:4–8).

And so this small thing is around everybody’s house, around your house and my house! It’s such a small thing, so little—only about three or four inches long and a couple of inches wide—but it can cause complete havoc and wreck the whole day when it gets loose. It can give more trouble than all sickness. Of all the weapons of warfare, the tongue has been the greatest. When it gets loose—a tongue out of control, an unkind tongue, a bitter tongue, a tongue that says hard, critical, or bitter things—God’s Word speaks of it in this scripture we have just read you, it says, “It is set on fire of hell.”

Someone has said that the day that begins with a bad tongue, turned loose that is, finds even the dog taking to the woodshed, and the man of the house quickly finds a job in the backyard. Everybody suffers when such a tongue turns loose! It only takes one sentence to start things going wrong, doesn’t it? We’ll have a little more of what God’s Word says about this just a little bit later, but I want to call your attention to a couple of verses from the Old Testament.

I think that most of us want long life. Do you? Do you want to live a long and useful life, many days? God’s Word says, “Life and death are in the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21). And Proverbs 12:18 says, “The tongue of the wise giveth health.” Proverbs 15:4, “A wholesome tongue is a tree of life.” Just think of it. Life and death are in the tongue. So for your very health’s sake, “keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking guile.” (Psalm 34:13) For your very life’s sake, watch your words. A loose, unkind, or uncontrolled tongue can be a hindrance to God’s healing you.

How often we wound someone with our tongue, maybe unintentionally, but unkind just the same: wounds in the heart of a loved one, blows from words. Some of us carry scars on our bodies from wounds, cuts, and so forth, but they don’t bother us; they only remind us of some trivial thing that happened years ago. But it’s so different with the scars on the heart left there by a bitter, angry tongue; some have never healed at all.

George Matthew Adams writes this:

“When I was a very small boy, I committed to memory a little poem by Mary T. Lathrop that impressed me very much:

If we knew whose feet were standing
Close beside the narrow stream,
If we knew whose eyes were closing
In the sleep that knows no dream,
We would be so kind and tender,
Lightly judge and gently speak.
Let us act as though we knew it,
For the links so quickly break.

Wounds in the heart are hidden deep; no one but the one who carries them around knows anything about them. They hurt sometimes in silence, and only the eye of the Maker sees them. But He sees them and He understands too. What a pity that we should wound a heart that may already be carrying a burden that you don’t know anything about! Maybe at that very moment they were yearning for some kind word of encouragement, but instead the words were spoken that wounded deeply and left the ugly scar.

It’s only a story, of course, but it’s told of a skilled anatomist who said, “This that I hold in my hand is a human heart.” One standing by said, “I’ve never seen anything like this before! What are those deep marks there?” And he answered, “Those are scars. Wait; let me examine a little closer. They are scars that have been made by unkind, cutting words. Oh, we find them on many hearts.” Then the other asked, “God forgive me, maybe they’re scars from my very own words. Tell me, does anyone ever die of wounds like this?” The anatomist said, “Yes, it does happen sometimes. But we express it by saying that they died of a broken heart. There are many ways of killing, you know, and that’s just one.”

There was a wound in a gentle heart,
Whence all life’s sweetness seemed to ebb and die.
And love’s confiding changed to bitter smart
While slow, sad years went by.
Yet as they passed, unseen an angel stole
And laid a balm of healing on the pain,
And now you see the heart made whole,
But oh, the scars remain.

From Streams in the Desert (June 22), by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman

I wonder why thoughtless, unkind words leap from our lips so quickly? Is there some remedy for such a thing? Is there victory for such a tongue? Thank God there is. And the victory begins with a change of heart, for words are but the outflow of the soul from which they proceed. If that soul has the baptism of God’s Spirit, they will be so filled with God’s love that every word will be filled with tender compassion, for “God is love.” (1 John 4:8)

There is only one way to change the unruly tongue permanently, and that is to transform the spirit that controls it. You can’t put on; you can’t pretend. Ask God to baptize you with His Spirit, for the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a baptism of love.

You can never control that tongue of yourself. The Word of God tells you this, as I just read: “The tongue can no man tame.” But God can tame it! God is God; nothing is impossible with God. Again the Scripture says, “With man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible,” (Matthew 19:26) even the control of that tongue.

Open your heart to Him. Yield yourself completely to Him. Ask Him to come in and fill you with His Holy Spirit. He’s promised to fill you with the Holy Spirit. The indwelling Christ can then speak through you, and your words will be as the apostle said, “words seasoned with salt.” (Colossians 4:6) Read God’s Word faithfully until you come into such an abiding relationship with Jesus Christ, that as He said, “My words abide in you” (John 15:7).

Christ is the only true source of all love, kindness, and sweetness, and as He takes possession of your whole life, He takes possession of your tongue, and His Words abide in you. Then the bitter, sharp, critical spirit is gone and He will live out His life through you. Listen to what Christ says: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man will open unto me, I will come in and sup with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20) God can’t fail His Word. The promises of God are yea and amen to the glory of God. (2 Corinthians 1:20) Trust Him to do this. Believe His Word; He’s never failed.

I can’t explain to you right now how this transformation takes place, but it does. Then as His love and kindness flows through you, it will take possession of your God-possessed tongue. Your life will become a stream of blessing to all about you. As Paul said, “It is no longer I that live, but Christ that liveth in me.” (Galatians 2:20) Christ will speak through you; Christ will express Himself through you.

Holy Ghost, with light divine,
Shine upon this heart of mine.
Chase the shades of night away,
Turn my darkness into day.
Holy Ghost, with power divine,
Cleanse this guilty heart of mine.
Long sin did have control,
Hold dominion o’er my soul.
Holy Ghost, all divine,
Dwell within this heart of mine,
Cast down every idol-throne,
Reign supreme, and reign alone.

Adapted from “Holy Ghost, with Light Divine,” by Andrew Reed (1788–1862)

Holy Spirit, come in and take possession of every heart and flow through their tongues.

Our Father God, we pray Thy blessing upon each hungry heart, each seeking soul. We ask today especially for these who have such a battle regarding their tongue or temper, or the quick, thoughtless, cutting words, the critical words that spring so quickly from the lips. Forgive, dear Lord. Cleanse and fill with Thy love. Give a new chance at life and eternity to these, Lord. We pray for a new beginning as they seek Thee for an infilling of Thy own precious Spirit that shall flow through them.

You promise that out of our innermost parts should flow rivers of living water. (John 7:38) We pray, Lord, that they shall seek Thee until they find Thee in all Thy satisfying fullness, as they come into possession of a real infilling of Thy precious Holy Spirit, Thy Spirit, Lord, to take control, in Jesus’ name, amen.