Battlefields of the Christian Life: The Tongue

James 4:1-10 says, My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned 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 our 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 beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and 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. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.”[1] The tongue is a subject that we often like to avoid. Many sermons have been preached on the negative uses of the tongue. We all know that as Christians we should avoid having a tongue that spreads gossip, speaks falsehoods, speaks negatively, and so on. However, in this study, we are going to look at the positive side of the tongue. We are going to consider some of the characteristics of the Christian tongue.

Truthful. The Christian tongue is one that speaks truthfully. It does not lie. It always speaks what is true and is faithful in proclaiming the truth. There are a couple of things to consider concerning the truthful tongue. (1) The truthful tongue is unashamed. Notice what Romans 1:16 says, For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”[2] As Christians, we should never be ashamed or afraid of sharing the truth of the Gospel. It is Gospel truth that sets people free. Such truth is centered on the Lord Jesus Christ. As believers, our love for Jesus should be so great that we cannot help but speak His name. (2) The truthful tongue is loving. Ephesians 4:15 says, “But speaking the truth in love…” There is a tendency amongst Christian circles to use this verse as a crutch to avoid dealing with difficult issues. Speaking the truth in love does not mean that you avoid the truth. It does not mean that we ignore the sin problems in each other’s lives. Speaking the truth in love has to do with both the content and the method of our speech. If you really love someone, then you will be truthful with them. Sometimes, the truth may be difficult and hard. However, real love says, ‘I am going to tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear.’ This is the measure of a good friend. A good friend is one that is not afraid to tell you what you need to hear. A good friend will be a bearer of good news as well as bad news. However, there is a right and a wrong way to speak such truth. To speak the truth in love is to focus on the truth being told and not on the person. In other words, we are to share truth in a way that is not condemning or tearing down. We should let the truth condemn, not our words and actions. To speak the truth in love is to attack the problem and not the person. May God help us to have a truthful tongue that is unashamed and loving.

Edifying. The Christian tongue is one that is also edifying. This aspect of the Christian tongue goes along with speaking the truth. The Bible Sense Lexicon tells us that the word ‘edify’ means to build up, to instruct, to advise, to train. Romans 15:2 says,Let every one of us please his neighbour  for his good to edification.”[3] As Christians, we should work to build up one another in the faith. This is done best through the avenue of the local church. Various ministries such as Sunday School and Bible study groups are ways in which believers can build each other up. It is important for Christians to be together. The more we are together in prayer and in the study of God’s Word, the more we will grow and mature in our faith.

Encouraging. Not only is the Christian tongue one that is truthful and edifying, but it is also encouraging. To encourage is to exhort or to bring along. Hebrews 3:13 says, “But exhort one another daily….” Every day we should be looking for ways that we can encourage others. We all need to be held up. We all need support. We need words that will lift us up and energize us and get us moving. This is what it means to encourage. It is to pry someone along. It is to take them by the hand and walk with them through the difficulties of life. We should speak words that will challenge others to focus on Jesus and to do great things for the kingdom of God.

Thankful. The Christian tongue is also a thankful tongue. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”[4] As believers in Christ, we should not just simply feel thankful, but we should express our thankfulness. We should speak it. Showing gratitude toward others is one of the greatest character traits of a disciple of Jesus. How often do you tell others that you are thankful for them? How often do you use those simple words ‘thank you’? Do you tell God ‘thank you’? Do you have an attitude of thankfulness?

Worshipful. Not only is the Christian tongue truthful, edifying, encouraging, and thankful; but it is also worshipful. Psalm 95:1-2 says, “O come, let us sing unto the Lord. Let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, And make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.”[5] Notice some of the key words in these verses. It says that we are to ‘sing’ and twice it mentions the word ‘noise.’ The Christian tongue is one that is constantly speaking praise and worship to God. It voices words of praise to God. The main reason God gave us the tongue is so that we may express praise and worship to Him. There is something special about praising God. When you are having a bad day, for instance, and you begin to just sing praise to God, all of the cares and concerns of the day seem to just fade away. It is truly amazing what praising can do. The Christian tongue should be a worshipful tongue.

How do you use your tongue? Is it used in a way that will glorify God? Does it encourage and edify those around you? May God help us to win the battle of the tongue and use our tongues to bring Him glory.

[1] The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Jas 3:1–10). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[2] The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Ro 1:16). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[3] The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Ro 15:2). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[4] The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., 1 Th 5:18). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[5] The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Ps 95:1–2). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

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