By Howard Green
The tongue has been used as an instrument to bless and curse, ever since people have interacted with one another. With the tongue we can edify, encourage, exhort, bless, comfort, and build-up people. The tongue is also used to tear down, gossip, curse, slander, and malign people. The fact that people in the world often speak in such a hateful way to others shouldn’t be a surprise.
What is surprising is that the vitriolic speech is becoming common place among many who would call themselves born-again Christians. What is an unbridled tongue indicative of, why it’s an epidemic in the last days, and how should it be used for God’s glory alone? Let’s look together at the instrument of blessing and cursing and how the Bible tells us to use it.
James 3:7-12: “For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.
From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.”
It wasn’t that long ago…when a person wanted to communicate with someone, they had to send a letter or speak in person. That was the way we have communicated for countless centuries. Now we live in the age of instant…everything. Texts, messaging, Facebook, Twitter, email, and dozens of other platforms make communicating with one another easier than ever.
Herein lies the problem: It’s also never been easier or more convenient to allow hateful, hurtful, and ungodly talk to be spread so quickly.
Before we continue, I do want to clarify something: First…used for the right reasons and with pure motives, I believe social media and other platforms are great tools to spread the gospel, edify others, and communicate with loved ones. Modern technology has helped to spread the message of the Bible to the far corners of the globe and that would have been unfathomable just a decade or so ago.
Second…as I write this article I’m also having to examine what I communicate to others around me. Far from casting stones, I pray this article helps each of us re-evaluate what proceeds out of our mouths with the ultimate benchmark question being: Who will receive glory for what I’m about to communicate?
Matthew 15:18: “But what 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.
As I mentioned earlier…the angry, crass, and downright mean things communicated by the unsaved people in the world is the norm and seems to be the rule of the day. On the other hand, this type of communication has no place in the life of a true Christian. As a matter of preference, I use social media very little except to promote the message of the gospel.
Regardless of how little or much time you spend on social media, it doesn’t take long to observe the ugliness of the human heart. It’s as simple as seeing a response to an opposing point of view on an article comment thread. No, I’m not referring to a NY Times, CNN, or Fox article.
I mean various articles in Christian Post, Christianity Today, and other media that would be identified as “Christian.” I understand the obvious point that not all viewers of these publications are truly born-again. However; it would be a reasonable assessment to say that a majority of the readers would readily identify themselves as a Christian.
The point is this: The comments and responses of many people are nothing short of hateful. It’s one thing to make a biblical point and be resolute about why; name calling, slander, and hatefulness is something completely different. This type of behavior is widespread and becoming typical for this generation.
There are so many words spoken, written, and sent by text that can’t be deleted or taken back. I say this because we need to remember that we are dealing with real people here…not fans, likes, or viewers, or subscribers. Social media is not a place to mention how much you love Jesus or the Bible, if your life pattern doesn’t match what you profess.
If you do that you are grandstanding about religion. You are seeking glory for yourself, not God. It’s something all together different when your life pattern, heart, and attitude line-up with what you profess. A person who is a professing Christianity is the same behind the keyboard and in the world. A holy, encouraging, Christ-like person who walks the walk is what others need to see because it is a reflection of our heavenly Father…not the world.
My pastor made a profound, yet simple point about what we communicate and I’ll paraphrase: Think, sleep on it, and pray…before you hit send!
2 Timothy 3:1-9: “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.
Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.”
Our time is marked by evil speech at every turn. Paul warned the church that a time was coming when some would seem like Christians (have an appearance of godliness) and deny it’s power. In other words, if a person is truly converted…there will be fruit. I believe Paul had our days in mind when he penned those words to Timothy.
When Paul wrote to Timothy he mentioned people who were always learning, but never able to arrive at the knowledge of the truth. It’s no different in our day, the only thing that has changed is there are a multitude of ways for some to have an appearance of godliness, but deny it’s power.
Knowing the unbridled tongue (communication) is indicative of an un-repentant person or false conversion, what then is the fruit of a true disciple of Jesus?
1 Peter 1:13-19: “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’
And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”
How refreshing is a professing Christian who is actually a follower of God.
These people are truly salt and light in this dark world. A holy life lived our inside and outside of church speaks volumes about the God we serve. These saints are vital to the building-up of other believers and they are a living testimony of the gospel to their unsaved friends, co-workers, and family members. God help us live out our profession of faith in every area.
Ephesians 4:29: “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.”
We have such a great opportunity to use our tongue, social media, and other forms of communication to serve God and help others. As believers, let’s be intentional about using these venues to explain the gospel to unbelievers and see some come to repentance. Let’s use our tongues to build-up and encourage our brothers and sisters in the faith. Most of all…let’s be intentional about letting what comes out of our mouths be for God’s glory.
If you are struggling in this area and need help, I want you to know that many of us…myself included have had to surrender this to the Lord, also. Personally speaking, when the Lord showed me ugliness in my heart…I needed to repent of that sin. (That’s just the way I talk, that’s just the way I am, or I’m going to let ‘em have it was just a front for the wickedness in my own heart.)
If God is showing you this in your life: Repent and ask Him for forgiveness. The Lord will cleanse your heart of the wickedness and replace it with His Spirit. Jesus said, “Go and sin no more.” To repent means you do a 180-degree turn from your sin, and do the will of God. You cannot do this on your own…it won’t last long.
You can’t conjure up happy thoughts, nice speech, and goodness toward others. The Lord wants all of you. Yield to Him and He will cleanse your heart. He will give you the strength to live for Him, including transforming what comes from your mouth, because your heart will be renewed.
Psalm 51:10: “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”