Have you ever met a verbal arsonist? Their words are always inflammatory.
In the Bible, the book of James says that words, like a fire, can burn people. We grew up saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” But words do hurt. Words destroy. Fire and words under control can give tremendous warmth and light, but fire and words out of control can be devastating. They can destroy miles and miles of homes and lands and peoples.
James wrote in his letter, “All of us do many wrong things. But if you can control your tongue, you are mature and able to control your whole body” (James 3:2 CEV).
In other words, if you can learn to master your tongue, everything else about your life will be easier to manage.
The problem with our words is that they can create a chain reaction. You can say something that you didn’t mean to have any harm, but it can have devastating effects that are beyond your control. Just a few inflammatory statements set off a chain of events that we now look back on and call World War II.
On a more personal level, your words can create a snowball effect when you unload on someone, who then unloads on someone else, and so on.
Our words, like a fire, can destroy almost any relationship we’re in. That includes your marriage, your relationship with your kids or parents, your friendships, and your work relationships.
So how do you master your tongue?
1. Get a new heart.
Ezekiel 18:31 says, “Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit” (NIV).
Painting the outside of the pump doesn’t make any difference if there is poison in the well. I can change the outside, I can turn over a new leaf, but what I really need is a new life. What I need is a fresh start. I need to let go of all the past and be born again and start over. I need to get a new heart.
We need to pray like David prayed in Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God” (KJV). What’s in my heart is going to come out in my mouth.
2. Ask God for help every day.
You need supernatural power to control your tongue. You can’t do it on your own. Your life is a living proof of that. We cannot control it on our own. We need supernatural power, so we ask God to help us.
Psalm 141:3 says, “Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips” (NIV).
This is a great verse to memorize and quote every morning. “God, put a muzzle on my mouth. Guard my lips. Don’t let me be critical today. Don’t let me be judgmental. Don’t let me say things off the cuff that I then regret.” You need to ask God for help daily because you need his power in your life.
3. Think before you speak.
Engage your mind before you put your mouth in gear. James 1:19 says, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (NIV).
First, be quick to listen and then, slow to speak. If you’re quick to listen you will be slow to speak. If you’re slow to speak, then you will be slow to become angry.
What does your tongue say about you? What does it reveal about you? If we were to play back a tape of every conversation you’ve had in this past week, what would we learn about you? God hears it all. Our tongues display who we are. In which direction is your tongue leading you?