The Use Of The Tongue

Mike Willis
Bowling Green, Kentucky

How we use our tongue has a grave impact on our present life. The wise man wrote,

A man shall eat good by the fruit of his mouth: but the soul of the transgressors shall eat violence.

He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life: but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction (Prov. 13:2-3).

Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles (Prov. 21:23; cf. 17:20; 18:6-7,21).

Those who sin with their tongue bring distress to themselves in a variety of ways. More importantly, however, sins of the tongue will cause souls to be lost in hell. Jesus said.

But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned (Matt. 12:36-37).

Consequently, we must learn to avoid committing sins of the tongue.

Common Sins of the Tongue

1. Talking too much. Some people talk too much, earning for themselves the descriptions of "motor mouth," "chatterbox," etc. Such speech pours out foolishness (Prov. 15:2,28) because no forethought is given to what is said. "A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards" (Prov. 29:11). There are some things better left unsaid.

2. Whispering and talebearing. Whisperers and talebearers dig up evil stories about things which others have committed so they win have something to tell on that person (Prov. 16:27). Too, they tell secrets (Prov. 11:13). As a result,, they wound people, inflicting pain with their tongue (Prov. 18:8), and separate friends (Prov. 16:28; 17:9). Talebearers and whisperers are fools (Prov. 10: 18 - from nabal which describes one who has no respect for God).

When I perceive that one of my friends in a whisperer or gossip, I must quit listening to his stories. The listening ear must share in the blame of the gossiping tongue. The wise man wrote, "The north wind driveth away rain: so doth an angry countenance a backbiting tongue" (Prov. 25:23).

3. Lying. Another sin of the tongue is the sin of lying, telling a deliberate falsehood. Some men lie to cover their sins, to avoid hurting the feelings of someone else, to take advantage of others, and many other reasons. God hates the "lying tongue" (Prov. 6:17; 12:22). Eventually, a liar will be exposed. "The lip of truth shall be established for ever: but a lying tongue is but for a moment" (Prov. 12:19). His friends will eventually catch him in his lie. When that occurs, his word no longer will be trusted. Liars must tell lies to cover their life. Sooner or later, they are caught in their lies, either because someone heard the other story that he told, he forgot to whom he told what, or some other reason. One can protect himself from having to have a perfect memory of what he told whom by always telling the truth.

4. Flattery. Some people flatter a person when in his presence and then attack and destroy him behind his back. The proverbs say that such a person hides hatred with lying lips (Prov. 10:18) and warns of the danger of the "kisses of an enemy" (Prov. 27:6). Eventually these flatterers will become known for what they are (Prov. 28:23). Men have little respect for this kind of character.

5. Angry words. Some words are described as "grievous words" because they stir up anger (Prov. 15:1). Frequently, they are words spoken in haste and without forethought (Prov. 12:16); they gender strife (Prov. 15:18). Little thought is given to the damage these angry words do to the various relationships of life. Read the words to "Angry Words" by H.R. Palmer:

Angry words! O let them never

From the tongue unbridled slip;

May the heart's best impulse ever

Check them ere they soil the lip.

Love is much too pure and holy,

Friendship is too sacred far,

For a moment's reckless folly

Thus to desolate and mar.

Angry words are lightly spoken,

Bitt'rest tho'ts are rashly stirred,

Brightest links of life are broken,

By a single angry word.

"Love one another," thus saith the Savior;

Children, obey the Father's blest command;

"Love one another," thus saith the Savior;

Children, obey the blest command.

6. Biting, sarcastic speech. "There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health" (Prov. 12:18). We sometimes say, "He really cut you down!" What a misuse of the tongue when its only function is to hurt someone else.

7. Profanity andfilthy stories. The Ten Commandments warn us not to take the name of the Lord in vain (Exod. 20:7). James deplored those Christians who "bless the Lord" on the one hand and "curse we men, which are made after the image of God" on the other hand. He said, "Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be" (Jas. 3:10). Many who profess to be Christians use profanity regularly.

"Filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting" (Eph. 5:4) were among the sinful uses of the tongue condemned by Paul. Those who have heard filthy jokes know what Paul was condemning. Jokes which are vulgar and filthy reflect a mind that is in the gutter and drags others down to the same level.

The Proper Use of the Tongue

The tongue, which is so frequently guilty of sin, can and should be used for the accomplishment of good. Consider what an impact for righteousness the Saviour's tongue had on this earth. Here are some good uses of the tongue:

1. To calm anger. "A soft answer turneth away wrath" (Prov. 15:1). Rather than using the tongue to stir up anger, we should use it to calm anger.

2. To disperse knowledge. "The lips of the wise disperse knowledge. . . " (Prov. 15:7). The tongue can be used to teach someone how to be saved, to live better, to do a job easier, and many other useful purposes.

3. To rebuke sin. "Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful" (Prov. 27:6). "He that rebuketh a man afterwards shall find more favor than he that flattereth with the tongue" (Prov. 28:32). The tongue should be used to point out the sinner's evil ways, while calling him to repentance (cf. the work of John the Baptist in Matt. 3).

4. To encourage others. "A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season, how good it is! " (Prov. 15:23) We can render service to our fellowman by encouraging the downhearted and depressed, the weak and sickly.

When the tongue is used in these ways, it is pleasant to others (Prov. 15:26). These uses of the tongue make friends (Prov. 16:13; 22:11).

You can understand why this kind of tongue is compared to:

A tree of life (Prov. 15:4).

A well of life (Prov. 10:11).

A honeycomb (Prov. 16:24).

An apple of gold in a network of silver (Prov. 25:11).

Choice silver (Prov. 10:20).

Good food (Prov. 10:21).


You control your tongue. "The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth, and addeth learning to his lips" (Prov. 16:23). Though the tongue can never be tamed (Jas. 3:8), it can be bridled and controlled. You should begin right now to control your tongue.

Don't allow yourself to abuse people when angry. Don't take the Lord's name in vain. Be truthful. Learn to speak an encouraging word, to comfort those who are suffering, and to express your love. You will enhance the quality of your life here and have the hope of eternity in heaven later.

Guardian of Truth XXX: 18, pp. 546, 568
September 18, 1986