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Use Your Tongue to Help, Not Hurt

Use Your Tongue to Help, Not Hurt

Don’t sink your own ship.

Use your tongue to help, not to hurt.

If we control the tongue, we control the whole person. Let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but if there is any good word for edification according to the need of the moment, say that, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29

In high school, I thought I was a BMOC — Big Man On Campus. I was an athlete, played in several school bands, had the lead in the school play, and was invited to all the parties the cool kids had. I thought I was big stuff — on the outside. But inside I was insecure, uncertain, and easily intimidated. I was an overachiever simply because I had no confidence whatsoever in my inherent worth as a human being. So I had to rely on achievements to validate my worth as a member of the human race.

I would periodically do other things to validate my status, to remind myself and others that I was, in fact, a BMOC. However, these things were usually the actions of a JERK, which is often what I really was. But I didn’t realize it at the time. One of my most disheartening forays into JERK-dom happened when a new girl moved to our small town. She was quiet and shy, although I remember her being a nice young lady as I look back on everything many years after. She had a pleasant countenance and was polite, courteous, and a good student. There was nothing wrong with her.

But the ways of JERKs are difficult to fathom, and for some reason several of “the cool guys” singled this girl out for unwarranted attention. We used to talk about her within her hearing. We said nothing ugly, but just asked questions about where she came from, what she was like, and why she was so quiet. But it was especially rude because we did it within her hearing. However, she never said anything, never acknowledged our rudeness, and never lost the pleasant look on her face.

I remember that at one basketball game where the girl was sitting in front of us, we started blowing on the back of her head. We blew very slightly at first. We wanted her to feel her hand over the back of her head and wonder what was there. But she didn’t. So we blew harder. She still didn’t acknowledge our pestering. Finally, we blew so hard that we parted her hair down the back of her head. 

Yet she did nothing. She never acknowledged our presence and never lost the pleasant look on her face.

To this day, I don’t fully understand why we did that. I was not a consciously mean kid. I think it had something to do with establishing my place over someone new so I could reassure myself of my standing in the flock, like chickens fighting for a position in the pecking order. When I think of this now, I reproach myself for my thoughtless actions. How we must have hurt her! And it was for no reason. Yet she was the picture of grace through it all.

In reality, she was a BW(oman)OC. I was just a big JERK! I don’t know where she is today, but I wish I could talk to her and ask her to forgive me. I wish I could tell her how much I regret my rudeness and how much I admire her for her graciousness.

I. The tongue is extremely powerful.

    You’ve heard the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Of course, this is not true. Words can hurt — and words can heal. Words can tear down —and words can build up. Words can destroy — and words can create.

    • We have, behind our lips, a tool that gives us the ability to encourage, exalt, and empower — or discourage, damage, and defeat.

    If we had a physical weapon this powerful, it would have to be licensed and registered with the authorities. Some people would not be permitted to carry it. Yet, here we are — everyone armed with a weapon so powerful that lives hang in the balance when we use it. And many of us don’t know how to use it well.

    II. The Bible commands us to use our tongues wisely.

    The Bible teaches that the tongue is extremely powerful, and it commands us to use our tongues wisely. God knows the power of the tongue. He gave it to us, and He instructed us on how to use it. The central passage in the Bible on the tongue is found in James 3:2–6:

    If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to rein in the whole body as well. Now if we put the bits into the horses’ mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their whole body as well. Look at the ships too; though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are nevertheless directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot determines. So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of unrighteousness; the tongue is set among our body’s parts as that which defiles the whole body and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.

    Whew! Strong words. And that’s not the end of it. The Bible has more to say about our words:

    The good person out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil person out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.Luke 6:45

    What comes out of our mouths originates in our hearts. The heart is the reservoir; our words are merely the stream flowing out of it. How embarrassing! Everyone knows! They know our hearts by listening to our words! 

    However, changing our speech is not an easy task because it isn’t merely our speech that needs change — it’s our heart. That’s why James wrote that if we could control the tongue, we could control the entire body. Therefore, we have to look honestly and accurately at our speech. Is it helpful speech or hurtful speech? No one speaks all of one and none of the other, but this must not keep us from being honest.

    When we are honest about our speech, we can look at the characteristics of good speech and bad speech with the goal of improving our own. If we use our tongue wisely and well, it will honor God, improve our relationships with other people, and make our lives go better. 

    Excerpted with permission from Don’t Sink Your Own Ship by Max Anders, copyright Max Anders.

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    Your Turn

    Our words are so powerful! God gave us this 3-inch muscle so we can use it for good, not evil. Are you using your words to bless, edify, encourage, and help others? Who needs to hear good words from you today? ~ Devotionals Daily