As the Psalmist speaks of the seven abominations, it is interesting to note how many of these are associated with how one chooses to use his tongue. Among these sins are “a lying tongue…A false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren.” Proverbs 6:16-19 says,“These six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him: a proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren.”
The children of God need to be careful about how they use their tongues. The half-brother of Jesus, James, spent much time discussing the sins of the tongue with the Christians of the diaspora. His words ring true today: “Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:5-8). We should all take heed of his warnings about the tongue.
Indeed, the Master Himself gives His disciples a warning about “idle” words and the nature of potential condemnation for the manner speech we use: “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle (careless—ESV, useless—JOT) 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” (Matt. 12:35-37). One shudders to consider the number of “careless” words that are used during the course of one day, and doubly so when we realize that we will “give account of it” on the day of judgment.
Sadly, Christians are sometimes guilty of misusing their mouths. Gossiping can be a problem among the children of God. Gossip is defined as “a person who habitually reveals personal or sensational facts about others.” Gossip does not have to be the transference of false information. It can be completely true. The King James Translation sometimes calls this person a “talebearer,” while other translations sometimes render this term as “slandering.” Solomon says, “Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler” (Prov. 20:19). The disciples of Christ should be careful that they do not use words that sow discord among brethren.
Furthermore, one can use his words to deceive others. Lying is condemned in God’s word, but many lie without having a second thought. Lying can be done by commission, omission, addition, or alteration. The psalmist says, “Let the lying lips be put to silence, Which speak insolent things proudly and contemptuously against the righteous” (Ps. 31:18). God’s people need to speak the truth. Paul says, “Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another” (Eph. 4:25). A Christian should not be guilty of lying.
Moreover, Christians should not use profanity. As the morals of our nation have declined, so has the vocabulary of many people in our society. Much of what is heard in songs, movies, television programs, and read in print contains some profanity. It seems that some actors believe their acting ability is measured in proportion to the number of profanities they can use in each line they utter. Paul says, “But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth” (Col. 3:8). By the same token, we need to be careful about what we expose our minds to. One cannot consume a mental diet rich in moral garbage and expect to remain spiritually healthy.
Paul uttered similar words when he says, “No corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (Eph. 4:29). In following up with the admonition about “corrupt” words, Paul shares the true way Christians should be communicating. We need to use words that edify and impart grace to others. He also says that our words need to be seasoned with salt: “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Col. 4:6).
With these passages in mind, it becomes evident that the tongue can be used for good purposes as well. We can use our mouths to sing praise to God. The Psalmist says, “Let my mouth be filled with Your praise And with Your glory all the day” (Ps. 71:8). It is no wonder that one aspect of our worship involves singing praises to God (Eph. 5.19; Col. 3.16).
Brethren can use words to edify each other (1 Thess. 5:21). If our words are seasoned with salt, we can use our mouths to offer encouragement when others are suffering or downtrodden. We need to seek language that builds people up rather than tears them down.
One can use the mouth to confess that Jesus is the Christ (Rom. 10:10). This profession is something that continues throughout our Christian walk. We can confess our hope to others and use words to spur Christians on to good works (Heb. 10:23-24). Sometimes people need a little encouragement to be involved in good works. A few words fitly spoken can change a person’s life.