The Tongue

The Tongue

In her poem “An Evening Prayer,” C. Maud Battersby captured what should be the prayer of each of us every day.

If I have wounded any soul today,
If I have caused one foot to go astray,
If I have walked in my own willful way,
Good Lord, forgive.
If I have uttered idle words or vain,
If I have turned aside from want or pain,
Lest I offend some other through the strain,
Good Lord, forgive.
Forgive the sins I have confessed to Thee.
Forgive the secret sins I do not see.
That which I know not, Father, teach Thou me—
Help me to live.

The Bible has a lot to say about the power of the tongue for good or evil. “We all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body” (James 3:2–6).

Also, in the book of Proverbs it tells us, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21), “There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health” (Proverbs 12:18), and, “A wholesome tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit” (Proverbs 15:4). So if you want a long, useful, healthy life, “keep your tongue from evil” (Psalm 34:13). For your own sake and everyone else’s, watch your words!

How often we wound someone with an unkind word—maybe unintentionally, but unkind just the same! Some of us carry scars on our bodies from wounds and cuts. Usually they don’t bother us, but they remind us of something that happened perhaps years ago. But how different it is with the scars left on the heart by a bitter, angry tongue!

Here’s another poem that continues that thought:

If I knew that a word of mine,
A word not kind and true,
Might leave its trace on a loved one’s face,
I don’t think I’d speak it, would you?
If I knew the sting of a word
Might linger and leave its mark
With a deep dark scar on a loved one’s heart,
I don’t think I’d speak that word, would you?
—George Matthas Adams

You’ve probably heard or said yourself some time, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never harm me.” Well, that isn’t true! Sticks and stones can make surface wounds, but words can wound even deeper and take a long time to heal. Wounds to the heart are hidden deep, and often no one but the one who carries them knows—no one, that is, except the heavenly Father. He sees them and understands, but what a shame that we should ever be the one to inflict that wound and cause that ugly scar!

Why do thoughtless, unkind words leap from our lips like they do? Is there any remedy? Yes, there is! Thank God, there is! The remedy begins with a change in the heart—our heart—because “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). There’s only one way to change the unruly tongue, and that is to transform the heart, the spirit that controls it. The remedy begins with praying to be filled with the Holy Spirit. When we live in the Spirit, every word will be loving and true, for God is love (1 John 4:8).

So open your heart to Him. Ask Him to fill you with His Spirit. Then as you make a habit of reading and absorbing God’s Word, you’ll come into a deep, abiding relationship with Him, and that relationship will manifest itself in your words and actions. When His Word abides in you, you can’t gossip or say unkind or bitter words. We can never control our tongue ourselves. “No man can tame the tongue” (James 3:8), but God can! “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

Trust God to change you! Believe that His Word will not fail. He can come in with His Spirit, and cause kindness to flow through you because He possesses your tongue and your life. You’ll become a stream of blessing to all about you. God bless you and help you in this. He will bring you through to victory, because God is still on His throne and prayer changes things! 

Virginia Brandt Berg

Virginia Brandt Berg

Virginia Brandt Berg (1886-1968) was a well-known American evangelist, and one of the first radio evangelists in America. She authored “The Hem of His Garment” and “Streams That Never Run Dry” and a series of inspirational radio programs titled “Meditation Moments.” (Articles by Virginia Brandt Berg used in Activated are adapted.)

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