January 16, 2005
Some things are better said by an outsider than a family member. There is less to lose! So I am glad to flap my lips on the topic of the tongue. There are few parts of our body more skilled and adept at falling into sin than our tongues. James said
James 3: 4-6 " Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell."
A man can start a fire various ways. A little match, a blow torch or a flame thrower... and the tongue can be any one of these. (They all start fires... just some a little faster than others!) It's my opinion there are three big tongue-traps everybody has to flee.
I. First: The Match - Talking Too Much (Overtalk)
We moderns live in a talking age - not much is being said... but everywhere I go lips are wagging faster than a beagle's tail. Talk radio, talk TV, talk this and talk that. And lots of Christians are caught right up into it - turning 3 minute phone conversations into 30 minute gabfests and making 10 minute meetings last 100 minutes too long. All that talk yet not much seems to be getting done!
You might think this is nothing but a personality issue - after all, don't some have the "gift of the gab?" Well, according to Solomon, gabbing's a gall not a gift.
Proverbs 18:2 A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his [own] opinion.
Proverbs 10:19 When words are many, transgression is not lacking...
Too much talk leads only to trouble.
Proverbs 10:8 ...a babbling fool will come to ruin.
One of the first lessons a person needs to learn concerning their speech is to restrain it.
Proverbs 21:23 Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue / keeps himself out of trouble.
Proverbs 13:3 Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.
Proverbs 10:19 When words are many, transgression is not lacking... but whoever restrains his lips is prudent [wise].
Now I realize that some things in life are tricky - especially when you're trying to figure out how to live godly in our present day. So let me be as practical as I can in telling you how it is you are to guard or restrain your mouth. It has two parts to it and it is very complicated, so, Paul, please read this part very slowly...
1. Keep Your Mouth Closed
Proverbs 17:28 Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.
I've been in company where a man sets out to impress his fellows by yapping all about this and that as if he were some expert on everything. My, oh my, there's a bucket of embarrassment ready to fall on his head! For as sure as he picks one topic to wax eloquent on, there is a tried and true expert in the crowd to set him straight.
All sorts of folks up here used to think Mr. McQuilkin was a wise and deep man - but that was more because of the few number of words he said in a day, than what those words were. Truth is, he was rather simple in his learning - but awful wise in his conversation.
Sometimes the best advice is: Zip it! Lock it! Stick it in Your Pocket!
The door into your house is a useful thing. But if you leave it open too long the heat of your furnace will invite itself out and the squirrels and mice will invite themselves in. Keep that door open to a minimum and all goes well. What a world of hurt could be avoided by a man or woman just using their lips for the necessary! If we could somehow harness the energy of some folks mouths we could stop burning fossil fuels! Everybody would do good to once a day not talk when they feel like talking... just for the practice!
Now, the second part is like unto it:
2. Think Before You Speak
Some folks assume the road to honesty is paved with saying whatever pops into their heads. Well, between my flesh and the devil, there's a whole lot that pops into my head that ain't worth repeating to a deaf mule. I side with Solomon on this one:
Proverbs 15:28 The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.
Proverbs 18:13 If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.
Proverbs 29:20 Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.
Proverbs 12:18 There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
A man who answers quick with lots of words is like a blind man swinging a broad sword. He rarely hits his target, but is guaranteed to do lots of damage in the trying. Sure, a person could cocoon up and not ever allow his words to open the door to his heart - I am not suggesting that! Keep your barn door shut and you'll keep trouble far away. Why? Because one of the first nursery rhymes we learned was full of lies:
"Sticks and stones may break my bones,
But names can never hurt me."
Now that there is just not true! There is a power in the tongue.
Proverbs 18:21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.
We need to picture our tongues as loaded pistols with hair-triggers. I know you city folk don't get to shooting guns a lot (at least I hope not!), but if you ever have, you will know that once you shoot a weapon, you fear it all the more. See what a shotgun does to a dear and you'll know what it could do to you. A man only needs to be beat up by his lover's tongue once to know how bad it hurts... and to learn to never do the same with his own. At least, that is what you'd think he would learn! But like most things, we tend to think the pain we feel is a lot worse than any we could inflict. A man who lashes others with the whip between his teeth will continually eat the fruit of it in his own life.
Proverbs 11: 9 With his mouth the godless man would destroy his neighbour, but by knowledge the righteous are delivered.
The first and best defence against this kind of sin is to learn to keep your lips together and your head on top of your heart. Stop talking. Think before you speak.
II. Second: The Blow Torch - Talking About Others
Another trap for our tongues is gossip. What is it that makes those silly magazines and so-called "news programs" so attractive to so many?
Proverbs 18:8 The words of a whisperer [gossip/talebearer] are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body. (repeated 26:22)
It's more than difficult to keep the maple sugar candy in my pocket out of my mouth. And nothing is as tempting to an itchy ear as hearing all about Jill's problems with Jack. Tales about another told "in confidence" make us feel powerful and self-righteous. The words of a gossip are like a bite of your favourite dessert... pleasing to the flesh and the belly. But the richest desserts often spoil the best meals.
Mr. Spurgeon said, "The gossip is the devil's bellows cramp blowing up the fire of strife." Have you ever been to a blacksmith's shop kids? Have you seen that great big windbag cranking up the heat of the fire? A gossip is a windbag - stirring up coals of distrust, betrayal, exaggeration and lies.
The gossip is a silent killer - like a cancer spreading through the body until one day some pain is felt and a wide pollution is discovered.
Proverbs 16:28 A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.
Few things stab as deep as a confidence betrayed. A few simple words have started divisions, feuds and wars. Some families have split in two over a confidence betrayed! A gossiping sister may do more harm than 10 trained soldiers.
Proverbs 17:9 Whoever covers an offence seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.
You kids need to learn now to run far away from the story tellers and talebearers that come along your path! Gossip is like the flu - it's hard to be around it for very long without catching it. And you know how the Devil works; he often lets our first few stumblings into sin go quite well - nobody finds out and nobody seems to get hurt. Then he tricks us into thinking that it really must be okay to sin like this - it's no big deal. The next thing you know, you're the biggest windbag on your block - ruining friendships and wreaking havoc.
Proverbs 11:13 Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.
Proverbs 12:23 A prudent man conceals knowledge...
I think it is good for you kids to keep secrets every once in a while... the good kind! You could go home tonight and think of something nice you'd like to do for mom or dad in a few days. Then tell it to each other, but don't tell mom and dad. It's a secret!! You'll get some practice at keeping your mouth closed and your secret hidden and that'll serve you well when you get older and need to keep something really important between you and yourself alone.
Proverbs 26:20 For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarrelling ceases.
Take away the fuel and fire won't burn. The way to cure gossip is to refuse to listen to it - whether from your neighbour or your television. The next thing is to seek the forgiveness of the one you slandered every time you do gossip. A big slice of humble pie can go a long way to making you think twice before whispering again.
These are not just little character flaws we are talking about here - they are serious things. Jesus never gossiped and never talked too much and every good Christian ought to have it in his heart not to just do what Jesus said but to follow His ways of living too.
Now, let me be very dangerous and suggest that this is a sin that more ladies may struggle with than men. Did I just write "all women are gossips?" Not at all! Mrs. Walter is one of the most discreet and trustworthy people I know! But there must be some reason behind the fact that when Paul spoke of this sin in the New Testament, he gave special warning to deacon's wives, older women and younger widows (1 Tim 3:11, Titus 2:3, 1 Tim 5:13). Some sins are more apt to be committed by men and some sins are more apt to be committed by women. I don't like saying it, but ladies I think it is worth considering if you might be a talebearer.
III. Third: The Flame Thrower - Lying Talk
Now there is one more big sin that out tongues love to love - the sin of lying.
Proverbs 12: 22 Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight.
Proverbs 6:16 There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: à the second of which is " a lying tongue"
It's no surprise! Remember Jesus' words to the Pharisee's:
John 8:44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
The first thing Satan did was lie to Eve and the first thing Adam did was lie to God. The first thing so many of us do is lie to each other. But the liar has much to be afraid of!
Proverbs 12:19 Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment.
Proverbs 17:20 A man of crooked heart does not discover good, and one with a dishonest tongue falls into calamity.
Proverbs 12:13 An evil man is ensnared by the transgression of his lips, but the righteous escapes from trouble.
Mr. Shakespeare called it a tangled web when we lie... Walter calls it a mess. We've all been there at least once, piling up lie after lie, one on another, until the whole stack of cards falls down on top of us. The liar will get caught - either here or in heaven. Most of the time it will be here. And that is no pleasant bit of business...
Proverbs 19:9 A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will perish.
Proverbs 19:5 A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will not escape.
The Lord promises nothing but pain and sorrow to the liar. You kids need to listen very carefully to this part. I've known boys and girls who lied like rugs and never learned to stop. The older they got, the less they got caught and the better they lied. But life was a misery for them. They didn't even know who they were since there whole life was pretend. Give me an honest man who makes honest mistakes and commits honest sins any day. But keep the liar out of my barn and off my land.
To make it extra plain and simple, Paul wrote it this way:
Colossians 3:9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices...
Ephesians 4:25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbour, for we are members one of another.
Lies are the mark of the devil and the breath of the corpse. When Christians lie, they are acting like the dead person they used to be and they bring shame on the Name that bought them. There is just no room for lies in the church of Jesus Christ .
Now reading all this you might think the only solution is to take your best knife to your tongue and lop it off! Fact is, that wouldn't help at all, because your tongue is connected to your heart... and everything that comes out of your mouth had its birth in your heart. The mouth of a person is just the fastest way to see into his heart. Jesus said it this way:
Mark 7:14 And he called the people to him again and said to them, "Hear me, all of you, and understand: 15 There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him." 17 And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 And he said to them, "Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?" (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, "What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person."
I suppose that begs the question: "What is your speech telling you about your heart?"
Matthew 12: 34b For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."
Talking too much, talking about others, and talking lies are the three big sins of our lips. Is your mouth a match, a torch, a flame-thrower... or is it a fountain of life (Pr 10:11 )? Next time I write I will try to describe the positive side of the matter - but for now, heed the warning and look at your heart, won't you? Your only hope, as always, is Jesus alone. We need new hearts and a new standing before God - He gives them both. Trust in Him!
P.S. If you've got any extra snow-ploughs down there - send them up! We are buried!!