How to keep your tongue from sin? This is a big question that we all face. The book of proverbs talks extensively about this issue. Furthermore, in many of the psalms we see David also talking about the importance of keeping our tongue in control.
Though, there are several psalms of David that discuss the topic of keeping our tongue in control, I would like to examine psalm 39 first. David begins this psalm by saying – I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth while in the presence of the wicked.
We don’t know exactly what prompted David to say this. It seems like he had been going through some tough times and we get a glimpse of this when we read psalm 39 further. In verse 9 David says: I was silent; would not open my mouth. But, the reason for him deciding to stay silent was the blow that he received from the hands of the LORD Almighty.
It seems like David is being disciplined by the LORD for some of his misdeeds which might include letting his tongue lead him into sin and he realized his error; that is why he says:
“I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin.” Yes, having no control over his tongue was causing problems for David and he decides to keep it in check.
Saints, this is not an issue that David alone faced. Since the fall of man, he has been struggling with this issue; no one is exempted from it. Like David, we all go through a lot of pain and suffering just because of our inability to keep our tongue in control.
Uncontrolled tongue has caused many wars; it destroyed many families and relationships and many in the midst of us are wounded mentally and spiritually just because someone could not keep their tongue under control.
But the big question is – How to keep the tongue in control or how to prevent our tongue from leading us into sin. I am not an expert in this field but from my experience I could share a few things that might help you control your tongue better.
1. Resist the temptation to tell a lie.
Many Christians take the sin of lying very lightly. For many, telling a lie is like eating a piece of chocolate. There are many born-again believers who have the habit of telling lies for any and every reason. They often forget the fact that the 9th commandment forbids us from telling lies.
“You shall not testify falsely – that is, lie, withhold, or manipulate the truth against your neighbor. In this context a neighbor is someone you interact with and not just the guy who lives next door. The Word of God commands us to deal with the people around us justly and rightly and this includes being honest with them. In fact, lying is a very serious sin in the eyes of the LORD. It is one of the abominations that the LORD Almighty hates and it can lead to very disastrous consequences.
16There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: 17haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, 18a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, 19a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community. (Proverbs 6, 16-19)
Again, in Psalm 52, David says: those who love falsehood rather than speaking the truth and those who have a deceitful tongue will come to ruin.
2 You who practice deceit, your tongue plots destruction; it is like a sharpened razor. 3 You love evil rather than good, falsehood rather than speaking the truth. 4 You love every harmful word, you deceitful tongue! 5 Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin: He will snatch you up and pluck you from your tent; he will uproot you from the land of the living. (Psalm 52, 2-5)
Also, Apostle Peter in his first epistle says: whoever would love life and wish to see good days must keep their lips from deceitful speech. Here, Apostle Paul is directly quoting from Psalm 34.
10 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)
Yes, keeping your lips from deceitful speech is a pre-condition for having a blessed life.
14 From the fruit of their lips people are filled with good things, and the work of their hands brings them reward. (Proverbs 12,14)
Furthermore, in Proverb 12, 19 the Spirit of the LORD says: honest lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.
19 Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment. (Proverbs 12,19)
Yes, a lying tongue lasts only a moment; yes, it is a pretty strong statement. Many of you might have already experienced this in your own lives. Sustaining a lie is a herculean task; it is not as simple as we think. In English there is a saying: In order to save one lie, you may have to tell another hundred lies. Yes, telling a lie will set in motion a chain of lies. It is not going to end with just that one lie. Therefore, think carefully before you set out to tell a lie.
2. Speak only what you really need to speak.
Yes, this is an area that we all struggle with. We often get into trouble just because we spoke more than what that particular situation warrants; and as a result, it produced very opposite results. We often think that more words mean more victory, but it is not like that. We need to train ourselves to speak only what we need to speak; nothing less and nothing more. This is not just with your friends and neighbors but even with your own family members.
19 Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues. (Proverbs 10, 19)
Yes, as the above verse says: sin is not ended by multiplying words. But rather sin is present when words are many. Sometimes Christians misunderstand this. They think – the more they talk, the more righteous they become. But What you need to bear in mind is – the risk of a conversation turning sour increases as our words increase. So, by speaking only what we need to speak we can keep our tongue away from leading us into sin.
3. Do not be quick with your mouth.
Yes, this is one of the weaknesses that we all fail to overcome. We are always very quick with our mouth and it often produces very disastrous consequences. Apostle James in his epistle says: those who consider themselves religious or spiritual should keep a tight rein on their tongues and if they could not do so, then, their spirituality is worthless.
26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. (James 1,26)
According to Apostle James one sure sign of a person’s spiritual maturity is: his ability to keep his tongue in control, not just controlling but keeping a tight rein on it. Many times, we have wounded our own family members and fellow- believers by being quick with our mouth.
Yes, being quick with your mouth often results in words that are rash and destructive and ultimately, they may lead to your own ruin. Instead, if you slow down and consider what you are going to say might help you answer someone wisely and calmly.
28 The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil. (Proverbs 15, 28)
Yes, as the above verse say; the heart of the righteous weighs its answers; which means if you are righteous, you will definitely be careful about what you are going to say.
19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. (James 1, 19)
Surely, what Apostle James says in the above verse is of greater significance in the context of being slow with our words. Yes, as he says; we should be quick to listen and slow to speak. Unfortunately, what often happens is just the opposite. We are always quick to speak but slow to listen.
Giving a judicious answer requires listening carefully to what the opposite party says. Instead, if we listen carelessly to what the other party says, then, the result would often be strife and tension; not peace and joy. Therefore, let us train ourselves to be quick to listen and slow to speak.
4. Not every provocation deserves a response.
Yes, this is an area that we, believers in Christ, need to use our God-given wisdom. We often think – every provocation deserves a response. As you know we live in a fallen world among fallen human beings. Even among our fellow believers we often witness this fallen nature. People have different levels of faith and as a result their response in different circumstances might be different too.
Definitely, there will be times when we face provocation from the people around us including our own family members, relatives and friends. But often we are tempted to respond to these provocations in kind. Not only that, we even think that we should win.
But the reality is – after responding to these provocations in kind; we often find ourselves in a bigger mess. What started as a spark has now become a huge fire with the potential to destroy everything on its way. Instead of calming the situation, your response has heated it up to a very dangerous level. Instead of water, you have poured oil into the fire.
As far as believers are concerned; my advice is; not to respond to every provocation unless it has the potential to produce disastrous consequences. Often the provocation on the part of your dear and near ones might be just accidental and not deliberate. Hence, it is better for you to take control of the situation by staying calm and quiet.
6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Colossians 4, 6)
4 The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit. (Proverbs 15, 4)
If we examine many of the provocative situations in our own lives, we could find that our own insensible behavior had made the matters worse. In fact, responding in kind is one of the main reasons why so many Christian Families are facing disintegration in recent years.
Though Christians love to teach and preach about forgiving and forgetting; many of them are not willing to put these things into practice in their own lives. What is even worse is – they can’t even forgive their own flesh and blood.
27 The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered (proverbs 17, 27)
5. Teach your tongue to bless others and quit cursing.
Tongue is a very small organ in our body but it has the power both to destroy and to build. We could either bless someone or curse someone with our tongue. We could either build someone up or destroy him with our tongue.
21 The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. (Proverbs 18, 21)
So how do we use this organ in a way that brings glory to God and blessings to us. It is a big challenge. Though we are believers in Christ, we still believe that we should bless those who bless us and curse those who curse us.
But what the Word of God teaches us is just the opposite. We do not become perfect Christians by blessing those who bless us. But we do become like our Heavenly Father when we bless those who curse us.
35But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6, 35-36)
Therefore, we need to train our tongue to bless others. Even in the face of intense cursing from others; we should continue to bless others. Blessing others is equal to blessing ourselves. Because, often times the curses that others utter on our lives turn out to be blessings for us. This is what actually happened to David. Let me share an incident from his life as an example.
One day David while he was hiding from his son Absalom, met Shemei on the way. But he treated David without any mercy and showered curses on him. But David did not respond in kind instead he kept quiet with the hope that; one day God will turn those curses into blessings. The following verses tell the story.
5As King David approached Bahurim, a man from the same clan as Saul’s family came out from there. His name was Shimei son of Gera, and he cursed as he came out. 6He pelted David and all the king’s officials with stones, though all the troops and the special guard were on David’s right and left. 7As he cursed, Shimei said, “Get out, get out, you murderer, you scoundrel!
8The Lord has repaid you for all the blood you shed in the household of Saul, in whose place you have reigned. The Lord has given the kingdom into the hands of your son Absalom. You have come to ruin because you are a murderer!”
9Then Abishai son of Zeruiah said to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and cut off his head.” 10But the king said, “What does this have to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the Lord said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who can ask, ‘Why do you do this?’ ”
11David then said to Abishai and all his officials, “My son, my own flesh and blood, is trying to kill me. How much more, then, this Benjamite! Leave him alone; let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. 12It may be that the Lord will look upon my misery and restore to me his covenant blessing instead of his curse today.” (2 Samuel 16, 5-12)
Apostle James understood the importance of using our tongue to bless others. In his Epistle, he strictly warns believers not to curse anyone since we are made in the image and likeness of God.
Also, he says: we should not use our mouth for cursing since we use it for praising God. Cursing others with our mouth makes it unholy and God would not accept praises that come out of an unholy mouth.
9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.( James 3, 9-12)
Also, in Proverbs 18, it says: from the fruit of their mouth a person’s stomach is filled and they are satisfied with what they get from the harvest of their lips. This appears to be very meaningful in the context of receiving blessings from heaven for the blessings that we have invoked on others.
If you bless others with your mouth, then, surely God Almighty is going to bless you with His mouth. In other words, you reap what you sow. If you sow blessings with your lips, then, definitely you will reap a harvest of blessings.
20 From the fruit of their mouth a person’s stomach is filled; with the harvest of their lips they are satisfied.(Proverbs 18, 20)