Today we are ending our study of James 3:1-18. We’re asked the question: In light of the connection between the tongue and the heart, how can you work to get your tongue under control?
“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:33-37)
Although you can seek to restore bruised relationships through repentance and forgiveness, spoken words can never be retrieved. Scripture warns, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29). Consider the following keys for taming the tongue:
1. Rely on God’s strength to aid you.
With human efforts alone, no one can tame his tongue. “The tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8). Only by the grace of God in your life can you seek to control your speech. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).
2. Dedicate your heart and tongue to the Lord each day.
You face new circumstances and new conversations every day. Regularly acknowledging your need for discernment and God’s grace helps you remain conscious of your words. “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).
3. Put your heart in tune with God’s Spirit by daily reading His Word.
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16–17).
4. Meditate on Scriptures that address the power of words.
By studying Scriptures about the tongue, you will gain insights into the power of your words. Memorizing and meditating on these verses will strengthen your resolve to speak with grace. “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11).
5. Assume responsibility for every word you speak.
God desires that you speak the truth (see Ephesians 4:25 and Psalm 15:2) and that you keep your word (see Matthew 5:37). He will hold you responsible for what you speak. “. . . Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment” (Matthew 12:36).
6. Ask those around you if you use words that are offensive.
Your family, friends, co-workers, and acquaintances can observe the effects of your words and attitudes. Ask them about your speech patterns and evaluate the observations they share. (See Proverbs 27:6, Proverbs 27:17.)
7. Commit yourself to giving a good report and when it is necessary, to following Biblical principles of correction.
“Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people . . . . Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbor, and not suffer sin upon him. Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:16–18). One should place no limitations upon the love for the neighbor, but instead a person should love to do an abundance of good for his fellow being as he does for himself. “If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone . . .” (Matthew 18:15).
8. Fulfill past promises, and think carefully before making any new promises.
You need to fulfill the promises you have made, even when doing so requires unforeseen sacrifice. God will bless the one who “. . . who keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change their mind;” (Psalm 15:4). Jesus said, “And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:36-37)
9. Ask for forgiveness for any unloving words or attitudes.
“We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.” (James 3:2). When you speak words that you shouldn’t have spoken, seek forgiveness. “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31–32).
10. Learn to speak words that will encourage, comfort, inspire, and edify.
“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” (James 3:13) Ask God to guide you to speak words that will honor Him and accomplish His purposes. “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Colossians 4:6).
Your words indicate what is in your heart. (Luke 6:45) In your efforts to control your tongue, follow the Apostle Paul’s admonition: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8). When the thoughts of your heart are focused on what is good and true, your words will reflect it, bringing honor to God and to others.