How To Manage Your Mouth
Written by Pastor Reggie Dancel
As you read this message as a devotional resource, may it help you in your Christian growth and deepen your faith as you face life on a day-to-day basis. It is my hope that you will also find this message practical and applicable anytime, anywhere. Apply the principles and you will become a better person.
Thank God – He has given us the ability to speak. However, we also have the ability to say the wrong thing at the wrong time. Nothing is opened more wrongly at the wrong time than our mouths. Look at this example: An old lady enters the grocery store and asks the stock boy, “Can I buy half a head of a watermelon?” The stock boy said that he will ask his manager if it was OK. As he walked back to the manager to ask, he didn’t realize the woman was walking right behind him. He said, “There’s a crazy old woman out there who wants to buy half a head of a watermelon.” As he turned around he was surprised to see the old woman standing behind him. He quickly said, “And this fine lady wanted to buy the other half.”
It might be your experience that your mouth gets you into a lot of trouble. The Book of James talks more about the tongue than any other book in the New Testament. Practically every chapter in the Book of James says something about managing your mouth.
“We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.” Here James says that if you can control your mouth, you are perfect. He is not talking about being sinless. The word “perfect” in Greek literally means “mature” or “healthy.”
Have you noticed that when you go to a doctor for a checkup, the first thing he tells you is, “Stick out your tongue?” Do you know why? It is because our tongue reveals what’s going on inside of us, not just physically but spiritually. James says we have to learn to manage our mouth. We have to tame our tongues. We have to learn to get our tongue under control..
There are three reasons we have to learn to manage our mouths:
1. My tongue directs where I go. Our tongues have tremendous influence and control over our lives. Where are you headed in life? Where are you going to be ten years from now? Just look at your conversations. What do you like to talk about? What do you talk about the most? We shape our words and then our words shape us. James says the tongue is small; it’s tiny. And because it’s tiny we think it is insignificant. But it has tremendous power. In verse 3, James says, “Consider a bit in a horse’s mouth.” Imagine a huge 3,000-pound horse and a 95 pound jockey on his back. The jockey can control that huge horse by a little piece of metal strategically stuck over the horse’s tongue. Likewise our tongue controls the direction of our life wherever we want to go, and a little bit of a word or phrase can influence the total direction of our lives. Then James says, “Consider a ship.” Here’s a huge ship or ocean liner. Yet a relatively small rudder directs the huge ocean liner out in the middle of the ocean. A little rudder keeps it on course. Our tongues are like that. Our tongues are like rudders that steer us. “Ships are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.” Our tongue directs where we go. Our tongues are the steering wheel of our lives. It is the guidance system. If you don’t like the way you are headed right now, change the way you talk.
2. My tongue can destroy what I have. In verse 5 James gives another illustration. Imagine a beautiful forest where you see tall beautiful trees everywhere. Now imagine it the next minute up in smoke, completely destroyed instantly with a little, tiny match. It only takes a spark to get a fire going and burning. The drought last summer was terrible, and there were many brush fires that destroyed thousands and thousands of acres of trees and burned down many homes along the way. All from a single match or a cigarette someone threw either intentionally or unintentionally. James says our tongues can destroy like that and you can lose it all. A careless camper can destroy an entire national forest overnight. A careless word can destroy a life overnight. Gossip is like fire. It spreads quickly and can wreck great destruction. I wonder how many people, because of a careless word, have destroyed their marriage or their career; or their reputation; or the reputation of others; their church; or their friendship. The tongue not only has the power to direct where you go, but also can destroy what you have if you don’t learn to control it. It is like a fire! Verse 6: “It sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” James is saying here that words can create a chain reaction. On a personal level for example, a man comes home from work and is tired and hungry, and grumpy and cranky. He walks in and yells at his wife. The wife yells at the oldest child. The oldest child yells at the baby. The baby bites the head off the Barbie Doll. Chain reaction and the course of hell. “Set on fire by hell.”
Here’s another example. A couple comes in for marriage counseling: “I said this, and then she said that. Then I said this.” “Then what happened,” asked the counselor. “All hell broke loose.” Our words can cause all hell to break loose. James says we’ve got to learn to manage our mouths because they can destroy what we have. We can lose our families, our kids, our careers by what we say. It’s like a fire. Proverbs 21:23 says, “If you want to stay out of trouble, be careful what you say.”
James also uses another illustration: “All kinds of animals have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is like a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” We can tame animals but no man can tame the tongue. It is always restless. It is always liable to break out at any moment. We never know what our mouths are going to say. It’s like poison. The word James used here is literally “snake venom.” Just a few drops can kill. Our words can kill somebody. We can assassinate their character. The tongue is a deadly weapon.
3. My tongue reveals who I am. Our tongues reveal real character. They tell what is really inside of us. First, James points out how inconsistent we are in our words. Vs 9 “The tongue we praise our Lord and Father and with the same tongue we curse men who have been made in the image of God. From the same mouth comes praise and cursing. My brothers and sister, this should not be.” We say things out of the same mouth. We come to church on Sunday, and the highest use of our mouth is praising God. We sing praises to the Lord. Then we walk out, get into the car and on the way home we argue and fight about where we are going to eat. It is amazing how quickly our attitude can change. The tongue is a strange contradiction. One minute we are praising God and the next minute we are cursing other people. How is it possible that we can be loving to people we love – wife, kids, husbands – and the next moment we become harsh and mean and cruel to them. Why do we do that? St. James gives the answer found in verses 11-12. He says consider the source: “Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”The point is, whatever is in the well, comes out in the water. Whatever is in the tree, comes out in the fruit. What is the likelihood of an apple producing pear fruits? NONE. OUR PROBLEM IS NOT REALLY OUR TONGUES. OUR PROBLEM IS OUR HEARTS. What is inside comes out. Our mouths eventually betray what is really on the inside of us. We can fool others but eventually our tongues are going to catch us. Our tongues are going to let us know what is really inside.
Have you heard this excuse before? Someone says something really hurting and they say, “I don’t know what got into me. It is not like me to say that. I don’t know why I said that. It is totally out of character. I didn’t really mean it.” St. James says, “YES, IT IS.” It is just like you. You mean it, and quit kidding yourself. What is inside is going to come out. You don’t have a spring that one minute gives salt water and the next gives fresh water. That is inconsistency. It is a natural law that what comes out of the well is what is inside of it.
Did not Jesus say this himself, “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34)? Our words simply display what we are and reveal our character. If you have a problem with your tongue, it is much more serious than what you think. YOU HAVE A HEART PROBLEM. A person with a harsh tongue has an angry heart. A person with a negative tongue has a fearful heart. A person with an overactive tongue has an unsettled heart. A person with a boasting tongue has an insecure heart. A person with a filthy, dirty tongue has an impure heart. A person who is critical all the time has a bitter heart.
On the other hand, a person who is always encouraging has a happy heart. A person who speaks gently has a loving heart. A person who speaks truthfully has an honest heart.
SO, WHAT IS THE SOLUTION IF WE WANT TO CONTROL OUR TONGUES?
1. Get a new heart.
If you have problem controlling your tongue, you have heart problem, and you need to get a new heart. Ezekiel 18:31 says, “Rid yourself of all the offenses you have committed and get a new heart and a new spirit.” Painting the outside of the pump well does not make any difference if there is poison in the well. We can change the outside/externals; we can turn a new leaf. BUT WHAT WE REALLY NEED IS A NEW LIFE. WE NEED A FRESH START. WE NEED TO BE BORN AGAIN AND START OVER. WE NEED NEW HEARTS. HOW DO WE GET NEW HEARTS AND NEW LIVES? 2 CORINTHIANS 5:17 SAYS, “THEREFORE, IF ANYONE IS IN CHRIST, THEY BECOME A NEW CREATION. THE OLD HAS PASSED AWAY. BEHOLD EVERYTHING HAS BECOME NEW.”
When we come to Jesus Christ, we get new lives, new hearts, and new spirits. Christ makes all things new. It is like being born again. YES, WE NEED NEW HEARTS AND ONLY JESUS CHRIST CAN PROVIDE THEM FOR US. We can pray like David of old in Psalm 51, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and restore in me the joy of your salvation.”
2. Ask God for help every day.
We need supernatural power to control our tongues. On our own we cannot do it. Our lives are a living proof for that. Psalm 141:3 says, “Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.” When you wake up in the morning, pray to God, “Lord, help me control my mouth today. Take away the hurt, the hate, and the bitterness and replace them with your love and grace. Don’t let me be critical today. Don’t let me be judgmental. Don’t let me say words that I would regret later.”
Ask God to help you and fill your hearts and minds with God’s word from the Scripture. Remember that what you put inside your mind and heart will surely come out. Have you heard the phrase, “GARBAGE IN, GARBAGE OUT?” What goes into your mind, goes into your heart. And what goes into your heart comes out of your mouth. FILL YOUR MIND WITH THE WORD OF GOD.
3. Think before you speak.
Engage your mind before you put your mouth in gear. Think before you open your mouth. Memorize James 1:19: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” They go in order. First be quick to listen and then slow to speak. If you are quick to listen you will be slow to speak. If you are slow to speak, then you will be slow to become angry. IF YOU HAVE A PROBLEM WITH ANGER, YOU NEED TO WORK ON BEING QUICK TO LISTEN AND SLOW TO SPEAK. The result? You will be slow to anger.
What does your tongue say about you? What does it reveal about you? Remember, our tongues reveal who we are. In what direction is your tongue leading you? Ask God to help you manage and control your tongue.