The tongue is more powerful than most natural calamities, for the effect of storms and fires started by it is much longer- rather eternal and God can help us to tame it.
“Am I a dog that you come at me with sticks” are the words that Goliath, the giant, who had been mocking the Israelite army for forty days. His words declared his fate and David killed him and cut off his head with his own sword. The Scriptures attribute much power to the tongue and the words spoken by us “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit” (Proverbs 18:21). Goliath’s words declared hid defeat while David declared and became victorious “This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I will strike you down and cut off your head” (1 Samuel 17:46). Our words not only reflect our attitude but also open doors to the forces of evil to operate to our failure.
The Greek word ‘metonumia’ implies change of name or a substitute for something to which something is closely associated. Tongue being associated with speech represents the spoken word and this word carries the power to edify or destroy. It is like 10 Downing Street being referred to in place of the British Prime Minister or White House to the U S President. The word tongue thus represents the words spoken by man and not the piece of flesh in the mouth.
Lord Jesus faced ridicule from His own brothers “For even His brothers did not believe in Him” (John 7:5) and James, His brother probably felt remorse many years later to write a full chapter on the use/misuse of the tongue. “If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body” (James 3:2) was his way to underline the power of the spoken word, for he had seen the Master doing this in front of him. However, he declared that “No man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8), accepting defeat in this difficult task.
Why is the tongue unruly evil? – The daily meetings that God had with Adam and Eve “during the cool of the day” in the Garden of Eden were to lead them to a life of love and obedience to God by ‘writing His statutes on their hearts’. This was to become the basic software program to run their life but it got interrupted due to sin and Satan managed to add the “knowledge of good and evil” into their hearts. Thereafter sinful thoughts have always been a part of our minds and conscience and the Lord declares “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). Our attitude and nature being sinful, our thought process is dominated by evil and what we think or what is hidden in our minds places the words on our tongues. Till the nature changes, tongue is likely to utter evil words and causes us to grumble and complain continually, criticize and judge others.
Ill effects of an evil tongue – The Scriptures ascribe the power of life and death to the tongue and the words uttered impact all the three dimensions of a human being- the body, soul and spirit. In our previous blog we have discussed the desire of God for His people- ‘be victorious’ and He equips us for that. Our words, however, do not reflect God’s will or our acceptance/obedience to His will. Most of our thoughts and the words coming out of our mouths reflect a mindset of lack of faith and negativity. The Scriptures are clear- what we think, we speak and even before a step has been taken in pursuit of a task, we have already accepted and declared defeat through our thoughts and words. Our thoughts get released through our tongue leading to pre- accepted trouncing and a permanent imprint for the future. Past experiences then become our basis for the future causing further defeat and ultimate fall.
The incident of our Lord healing a demon possessed boy immediately after His transfiguration is clear about correcting the wrong words. The father of the boy explained the situation to Lord Jesus and said “If You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us. Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes”. The cry of the father was immediate “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:17-27). The Lord was aware of the father’s thoughts that had come out of his mouth- ‘if you can do anything’ and He refused to heal without correcting this anomaly. The inhabitants of Nazareth perceived Him only as “the carpenter’s Son” and “He could do no mighty work there” (Mark 6:5). Lord Jesus never ever allowed any thought to come into His mind or a word of doubt to escape from His mouth and He could declare without speaking a word “Father I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me” (John 11:41-42).
Our words may seem to have no bearing, but our belief reflected thus affect our whole being dragging us into situations, that we wish to come out of. We are made in the ‘image and likeness of God’ and this status was restored to us by the resurrected and enthroned Lord; though our transformation is being carried out in the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. God is particular about the affect of His Words “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11). Our spoken words in the same manner cannot get wasted but cause change- positive or negative.
The Greek word for a curse is ‘katara’ translated as ‘kata’- according to or down; and ara- a curse; implying “to go down or penalties received due to condemnation. These penalties are borne on the body, hurts affecting the feelings/emotions and the soul or being placed in bondage to evil stunting spiritual growth. The impact of the words spoken by us on all three dimensions of our being must be seen to understand their full impact.
The Body – Tongue has been credited with the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21) and this power is evident in a court of law; a dictatorship/ military regime and many other situations where a word spoken in judgement can cause death. Balaam was called by Balak to pronounce a curse on Israelites camping in the area but instead blessings were announced by him (Numbers 23). Tongue is used to curse casing death and destruction or bless. “Ask and you shall receive” is our Lord’s promise- blessings are received through the words from our mouth spoken in prayer and Lazarus was called out by the Lord from the grave. A sick person entertaining thoughts of getting well speaks such and gets better or adversely faces death. Words uttered by us reflect our thoughts and thoughts affect our physical health also. Wrong words spoken can not only cause a fight but also soothe frayed tempers causing healing and comfort.
The soul – Feelings or emotions are directly based on life experiences and get affected by the same. A person getting cheated by friends is likely to trust others with difficulty and words of endearment or hatred leave a permanent mark on the human psyche. Our Lord directed us to forgive and love even our enemies because of the long term affect of harboring a grudge against others on our body and soul both. Marital discord or differences in professional relationship result from words spoken in anger, carelessness and deceit. “There is one who speaks like the piercing of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health” (Proverbs 12:18). The wounds caused by the tongue hurt deeper than a sword thrust and take longer to heal and it is referred to as “a fire” (James 3:6). The two sides of it define it as “wholesome tongue is a tree of life, but the perverseness in it breaks the spirit” (Proverbs 15:3). The wounds caused through careless talk are deep and very damaging creating a ripple effect all around.
The spirit – The commandment “Love your enemy as yourself” is clear and words spoken in anger or hatred that cause long term damage are sinful. Prophet Isaiah lists out the reason for the Lord God’s help to save His people not coming – Sin or inequity; and then he goes on to list a few of the sins. “Your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear. For your hands e stained with blood, your fingers with guilt. Your lips have spoken falsely, and your tongue mutters wicked things” (Isaiah 59:1-3). Separation from God is the result of sin in any and every form- thought, word and deed; directly affecting the spirit of man. When we use our tongue “to bless our God” we receive eternal blessings and when it is used to “curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God” we shall suffer eternal punishment (James 3:9). Any such affect is borne directly by our spirit through separation from God.
How do we control the tongue? – Lord Jesus has warned us to be careful in use of our tongue “that for every word men may speak, they will give account of it on the day of judgement. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36-37). God used the power of the Word to create everything from nothing and used the same power to guide Adam and Eve in the Garden. Satan uses the same power of the word to mislead us into damnation. We are given the ‘power of speech’ to glorify God and to “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise” (Psalm 100:4) and to “comfort/encourage one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18). The way to use our tongue for this lies in the Scriptures only.
Changing our thought process – Our brain receives and processes thousands of messages every hour and accepts or rejects these as per our background information stored in our minds. The thoughts are like birds flying in the air and can hardly affect us till they are permitted to settle down in our head. We cannot stop our thoughts from forming but we can definitely stop them from forming a nest in our mind. To counter an evil thought is to replace it with the Word of God and not only in thought but through speaking the Word out aloud. This is a sure way to not only change the process of thinking but also fill our mind with the Word of God.
Cleansing of the heart – “Love your God with all your heart” and to follow this, the heart must be filled with the knowledge of God and His ways. From the depth of our heart emerge the words we speak and if the core content therein is God then our thoughts and the words we speak will also be of God. Focus on God’s faithfulness, grace, love and mercy to reap a gracious, truthful, reconciling and encouraging tongue. A mind filled with the knowledge and wisdom of the depth of the Lord’s ‘Sermon on the mount’; the words of Saint Stephen before being stoned to death; the teachings of the books of Romans or Hebrews; the Revelation of Jesus to Apostle John and all of the Holy Scriptures, will think, speak and follow the Word.
The Scriptures do, however, assure us of Divine protection from any curses or evil words spoken against us by our ‘enemies’. “The eyes of the Lord preserve knowledge, but He overthrows the words of the faithless” (Proverbs 22:12) and this is not only for evil words but also their prayers or declarations. To the Israelites this blessing was pronounced because of the customs adopted by the pagan nations surrounding the Promised Land “No curse can touch Jacob; no magic has any power against Israel. For now it will be said of Jacob ‘What wonders God has done for Israel” (Numbers 23:23).
Pray earnestly – No one can emerge victorious in his own power and the freely available grace of the Lord and the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit must be used. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24). Seek God’s help in removing any evil from the heart and then ask Him to “Set a watch, O Lord, over my mouth; keep the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3). Pray to Him “to deliver us from the evil one”; lay claim over His presence and fellowship with Him in the heart and His truth and life that come from Him. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17) and repeated utterance of the words take root in the heart and bear fruit through the lips.
Seek support – “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24) and this can only happen through display of Godly affection for others. “Therefore encourage one another and build (edify) each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5”11). Fellowship with saints and seek their prayer support, guidance and encouragement to be transformed into His image with a mouth full of and proclaiming life and not death.
“In many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and also able to bridle the whole body” (James 3:2). Our words are able to ensure others and our well-being, blessings and hope through the prayers we pray. God is able, faithful and ever ready to show us the way to do it.
We have His promise and ours is the choice!!