A study like this would be incomplete without strategies to minimize the misuse of the tongue, and to maximize the potentials in reaching true religion with a proper use of the tongue. There is no doubt that these are but a sample of all that could be said.
(1) From the Heart – The Key to Whole Equation
Jesus once made the statement that the heart was the source of all of our actions. Notice how Matthew records this affirmation:
[W]hat comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. (15.18-20 ESV; cf. Mark 7.14-23)
Indeed, we see the wisdom of Proverbs 4.23, saying, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” Many feel that the best way to succeed in life is to expose oneself to everything that can be known, and then let the chips fall where they may; thinking that exposure is the same thing as protection. Actually, the opposite is true.
The Lord again informs us, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12.34b). Is there any clearer reason for guarding our hearts? If this was not sufficient, Jesus has warned that “every careless” word will be scrutinized in judgment in so far as our “words” will justify us or condemn us (Matt. 12.36-37).
Furthermore, Paul penned the following words: “I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil” (Rom. 16.19). Two things are said here: we must be thoroughly informed in what is good, and we must be unadulterated with evil.
Layering these passages together, it is clear that the heart must be guarded against evil influences by filling the heart with “what is good”. This will enable a person to control what proceeds “from the heart.” “Out with the old, and in with the new” is still a profitable proverb. Certainly, then, with a tongue controlled at its source the course of our lives will be better.
(2) It Comes Down to Control – Filter the Mouth
It can be safely said that many individuals suffer from brain-to-mouth “syndrome”. Those “suffering” from this syndrome share whatever comes to mind – i.e., “you think it, you say it”. Surely this cannot be a prudent method of communication.
The book of Proverbs clearly describes this “syndrome”, and it is never described for its virtue. Note a couple of passages:
The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things. (15.28)
If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame. (18.13)
Christians should upgrade their tongue with a filter. This filter has a name – it is forethought guided by godly principles.
Word choice – and it is a choice – is an important part of the communication process. It will enable us to speak morally, honestly, correctly, empathically, and positively. So the next time you are on the verge of a brain-to-mouth moment, pause, “hear” and “ponder” over the matter at hand before you speak. This filtration system just might be the best thing you do to change the direction of your life (Jas. 3.2 -6)!
The letter to the Ephesians also has a number of things to say about the use of our “tongue”. Our vocabulary is to be filled with words that are “pure” as our Heavenly calling (Eph. 4.1-3).
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (Eph. 4.29)
Our “mouths” are to be free of filthiness, foolish talk, crude joking for they are out of place with the Christian hope; instead, our mouths are to be filled with thanksgiving (Eph. 5.4).
In this connection, we ought to give thought to crude language. There are some who have the ability to, without a single “cuss” word, use some of the crudest and caustic language conceivable. Such language is just as toxic, immoral, and evil as the use of any explicit “cuss” word (Eph. 4.31; Matt. 15.19). Just because no “cuss” word was used, does not provide us an excuse to be crude and rude.
Finally, there are some who suggest that “cuss” words are cultural phenomena and therefore cannot be confined with a list of “off-limit” words. However, while it may be true that there is a cultural element to this cache of vulgar words, it should go without mention that our vocabulary (“speech”) should be “seasoned with salt” (Col. 4.6), the results of a godly disposition and life (Phil. 4.8-9), and free from anything that would create unnecessary conflict with others (Rom 12.18).
For these reasons, when we speak we must have forethought in what we say guided by Christian principles.