Smoother Sailing Article – The Tongue

By Pastor Barry Black
“Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast.” Hebrews 6.19

Have you ever thought something and then said, “Well, I’ve thought it, so I might as well say it”? Well, that might just be something to which we should give a little more thought. Words are quite powerful. The difficulty in managing our tongue is something that we all deal with. We read in James 3.1-12 that the tongue is compared to a horse’s bit, a ship rudder, fire, an untamed animal, deadly poison, and a fountain. In this article, we will see several scripture passages and quotes from others about the tongue. Proverbs has much to say about the subject, and in
Proverbs 18.21 we read: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…”

“Absolutely abominable!”

In Proverbs 6.16-19 Solomon tells us seven things that are abominable in the sight of God. Of those seven, look closely at those related to the tongue:
16 These six things doth the Lord hate: yea seven are an abomination unto him: 17 A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, 19 A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.
Two of these mention the tongue directly (“a lying tongue…a false witness that speaketh lies”), one implies a sin of the tongue (“sowing discord among brethren”). Three of the seven refer to the tongue. Therefore, we can conclude that sins of the tongue are very serious in the eyes of God.

“Liar, liar!”

Let’s look at these. Of the three that refer to the tongue, two of those address the sin of lying. Scripture has much to say concerning lying and deception:
Exodus 20.16 “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.”
Exodus 23.1 “thou shalt not raise a false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness.”
Proverbs 12.17 “He that speaketh truth sheweth forth righteousness: but a false witness deceit.”
Proverbs 14.5 “A faithful witness will not lie: but a false witness will utter lies.”
Proverbs 19.5 “A false witness shall not be unpunished, and he that speaketh lies shall not escape.”
Ephesians 4.25 “Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.”
Colossians 3.9 “Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man (i.e. old nature) with his deeds.”

Lies cannot change the truth, no matter who tells the lies or how often those lies are told. Perhaps from a practical viewpoint one of the reasons God hates sins of the tongue is the fact that although they can certainly be forgiven (1 John 1.9); forgiveness likely will not erase the consequences that follow, including the damage that may ensue.

“Are you causing trouble again?”

The last of the seven abominations in Proverbs 6 is, “he that soweth discord among brethren”. How is discord sown? Very simply, discord is sown by the tongue; and usually by lies that are told (sometimes told very subtly).

“Sin has many tools, but a lie is the handle that fits them all.”
– Oliver Wendell Holmes

God hates discord (Proverbs 6.19). Paul addresses the problem in Galatians 5.19-21. In verse 20, Paul uses at least 4 words to describe those who sow discord (source:
“variance” – contention, strife
“emulations – envious and contentious, rivalry, jealousy
“strife” – electioneering, intriguing for office, a desire to put one’s self forward, a partisan and fractious spirit.
“seditions” – dissension, division

Each of these sins is known as “works of the flesh” (Galatians 5.19). In other words, these are deeds (i.e. sins) of our sin nature. These deeds are “natural” for the unsaved person, and also the result of carnal living (failure to walk in the Spirit) by a Christian.
Solomon says it this way:
“An ungodly man diggeth up evil: and in his lips there is a burning fire. A forward man soweth strife: and a whisperer separateth chief friends.” – Proverbs 16.27,28

“Anyone who loves his opinions more than he does his brethren will defend his opinions and destroy his brethren.” – Author unknown.

“Ouch…that hurt!”

You probably remember the old adage “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”. That is simply not true. In fact, the writer of Proverbs said it this way:
“The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.” Proverbs 18.8
“In the multitude of words, there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.” Proverbs 10.19
“Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.” Proverbs 17.28

Or as one sage put it, “As a person grows older and wiser, he talks less and says more.” Or in a more humorous way, but equally true: “Better to remain silent and be thought foolish than to speak and remove all doubt.”
Here is something to think about: whoever gossips to you will gossip about you.

“I heard a rumor”

I once read a quote which has been attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt (source: It goes something like:

Great minds discuss ideas
Mediocre minds discuss events
Small minds discuss people

Wow, that certainly rings true; especially when you look at most of what is considered “news” on television, the internet, and newspapers. People so easily become consumed with celebrities and pop “stars” and all the latest “news” which is mostly gossip. The same is often true in the workplace, places of worship, or among friends. Gossip and rumors make for alluring conversation. Some people thrive on it. It is just as much of a temptation as any other sin.

“Bite your tongue!”

A few years ago, I came across an interesting piece that I would like to share with you. If we took this to heart, it would make quite a difference as we learn to watch our tongue:
In 1752, a group of Methodist men, including John Wesley, signed a covenant which every man agreed to hang on his study wall. The six articles of this solemn agreement were as follows:
1.That we will not listen or willingly inquire after ill concerning another.
2.That, if we do hear any ill of each other, we will not be forward (inclined) to believe it.
3.That as soon as possible we will communicate what we hear by speaking or writing to the person concerned.
4.That until we have done this, we will not write or speak a syllable of it to any other person.
5.That neither will we mention it, after we have done this, to any other person.
6.That we will not make any exception to any of these rules unless we think ourselves absolutely obliged in the conference.

What a difference it would make if we lived by this covenant. Imagine all the hurt feelings that would be avoided. Imagine all the relationships that may be salvaged. Imagine the churches that would be stronger and more effective for the cause of Christ.

Barry D. Black is Pastor of Anchor Bible Church
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