Author's Note: Readers can find all previous volumes of this series here. The first 56 volumes are compiled into the book "Bible Study For Those Who Don't Read The Bible." Part Two, featuring volumes 57-113, will be published later this year.
Thanks for joining biblical teachings about the tongue and mouth as metaphors for communication. Although the Bible often references both, our brain is the supreme commander of communication, with the mouth and tongue being the literary and symbolic messengers.
Physically speaking, the tongue is not a single muscle but eight different muscles working together, so “The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit” (Proverbs 15:4). And:
“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
Those are the “goalposts” for today’s study — the good and evil formulated by the tongue and mouth, the vehicles for conveying faith, truth, and praise for the Lord.
Now let’s review some blunt comparative wisdom from the book of Proverbs:
“The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18).
“Those who guard their lips preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin” (Proverbs 13:3).
“Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues” (Proverbs 17:27-28).
“From the fruit of their mouth a person’s stomach is filled; with the harvest of their lips they are satisfied. The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” (Proverbs 18:20-21).
“Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble” (Proverbs 21:23).
The Bible clearly warns us against loudmouths, know-it-alls, and rash, reckless speech. This ancient wisdom holds up well in the modern age and applies to electronic communication that could be considered our new tongue and mouth.
Moving on to Psalms — always more calming, poetic, and God-centered — well, maybe not this Psalm:
“You who practice deceit, your tongue plots destruction; it is like a sharpened razor (Psalm 52:2).
But we should often repeat these two Godly speech requests:
“May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).
“May my lips overflow with praise, for you teach me your decrees. May my tongue sing of your word, for all your commands are righteous (Psalm 119:171-172).
“Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3). (A personal favorite because many times in my life, I have needed a “guard over my mouth.” Cue the nodding heads from family and friends.)
Turning to the New Testament, Paul writes in Romans but quotes Isaiah:
“You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: “ ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God’ ”(Romans: 14:10-11). “It is written:” (Isaiah 45:23).
Isaiah’s passage is powerful and emphatic. We can almost hear the Lord saying to Isaiah, “every tongue will acknowledge God,” and in some translations, “..by me every tongue will swear.” Remember that God blessed us with a tongue so we must use it to praise and glorify him.
Peter requoted an Old Testament tongue reference from Psalm 34:12-13 to reiterate some practical advice:
“For, ‘ Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech ’ ” (1 Peter: 3-10).
I am happy to announce that the most extensive tongue verses have been saved for last — written by James, known as the brother of Jesus. His beautiful prose resonates millennia later. In my study Bible the 12-verse passage is sub-headed: “Taming the tongue.” We pick up with verse three:
“Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
“ All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be” (James 3: 3-12).
Indeed, we understand that words can be powerful and healing but dangerous and even deadly. Moreover, careless words can change the direction of your life.
Our tongue is powerful, but we must learn to control it – not use it to break hearts and rip people apart. All of us have experienced that as givers and receivers. But, conversely, our tongue speaks words of love, kindness, and tenderness that we should do more often.
Finally, here is a meaningful Bible-based prayer to keep handy since our tongue is always with us and, at weak moments, has a mind of its own. Quoted from Crosswalk.com:
“Lord, I know my tongue often gets ahead of my mind and heart. I am quick to speak, and I repent of the many thoughtless things I have spoken. I am sorry for words I have spoken in anger or in gossip. Please help me to see when I am about to speak without thinking and to check my heart. Help me be slow to speak. Help me Lord to be a person full of loving words, full of your Spirit, overflowing with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control. Amen.”
And to that, my tongue formulates another “Amen.”
Myra Kahn Adams is a conservative political and religious writer with numerous national credits. Her book, "Bible Study For Those Who Don't Read The Bible,” reprints the first 56 volumes of this popular study. Myra is also Executive Director of SignFromGod.org, a ministry dedicated to education about the Shroud of Turin. Contact: MyraAdams01@gmail.com or Twitter @MyraKAdams.