James 3:5 (NIV) – “Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a tiny spark.”
The 2016 political scene is rife with word-slinging, condemnation, accusation, and slander. While this is not new, I have been more focused on the specifics of this campaign than any previous one. As I have watched the process unfold, God has reminded me about the power of words.
Any public speaker or veteran writer is aware of the elements of reason and persuasion. They are also versed in propaganda—an unfortunate reality of political campaigning and modern-day marketing. Again, nothing new. But as I daily see negative political posts come through my social media feeds and listen to “talking heads” on news networks, I am reminded of the many things the Bible has to say about the power of words and the flames set afire with the tongue.
Does a political campaign negate Jesus’ teaching? Do we, as Christians, set aside God’s Word to further our personal political views? Are we sure what we say or share is truth? As Christians, we should strive to follow God’s Word in all situations and be an example for others to follow. “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.” Timothy 3:16-17 (KJV)
Admittedly, this is difficult when emotions run high. Too often, I fear, instead of speaking the truth in love, we set aside these principles in an effort to carry out our civic responsibilities. We must be balanced.
Proverbs 18:21 (AMP) says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and they who indulge in it shall eat the fruit of it [for death or life.]” If that were the only verse about the tongue in whole Bible, it should still give us pause. We can kill and destroy people with our words, or we can build life. Further, the words we speak not only impact those about whom we speak, but they impact us. We who indulge ourselves with the wrong kind of talk will eat the fruit of it. In other words, we shall reap either blessing and life or destruction and death.
Matthew 12:36-37 echoes Proverbs 18:21. “But I tell you on the Day of Judgment, men will have to give an account for every idle word they speak. For by your words you will be justified and acquitted and by your words, you will be condemned and sentenced.”
In all life circumstances, we have a choice of how we respond and when and what words to share. We need to choose wisely.
How can we choose wisely when there are unpleasant truths to be shared? Proverbs 16:23 (NIV) tells us, “The hearts of the wise make their mouths prudent, and their lips promote instruction.”
An acronym I learned when I was teaching is THINK. It provides a great guide for when and how to speak. Is it true? Is it helpful? Is it inspiring? Is it necessary? Is it kind?
T – TRUE – Psalm 34:13: “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.” We need to be sure what we say is truthful.
I – INSPIRING True words build up those you support.
Proverbs 25:11- “A word fitly spoken and in due season is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”
Proverbs 15:33 – “A man has joy in making an apt answer, and a word spoken at the right moment—how good it is!”
N – NECESSARY – It is necessary to speak up sometimes because the Bible also challenges us not to conceal evil.
Proverbs 23:30 – “He who shuts his eyes to devise perverse things and who compresses his lips [as if in concealment] brings evil to pass.”
Proverbs 37:40 – “The mouth of the [uncompromisingly] righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice.”
K – KIND – Proverbs 15:1 “A soft answer turns away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger.”
The way of the world has become so embedded in our Christian lives that we often compromise in areas we don’t even suspect. How thankful I am that God is forgiving and helps us work out our own salvation by pointing out areas where improvement is needed. How thankful I am that my righteousness is in Christ, and what He has done and not what I do on my own. I pray with the Psalmist, “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips [to keep me from speaking thoughtlessly].”
As we confront the reality of sin in today’s world, it is often difficult to contain our emotions, and therefore, our mouths. But as Christians, we are called to be self-controlled. The tongue is often the last stronghold we must conquer. And it is a continual battle. I pray for God’s wisdom as I choose what to say and when to speak. May God help us embrace the truth of Ecclesiastes 3:7 and understand that there is both “A time to be silent and a time to speak.”