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Taming the Tongue 13 March 2011 Elder Peter Goh

In James 5:13-20 we read these words, “Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elijah was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit. Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.” I am sure all of us are aware of the danger of the wrong use of the tongue. The tongue can be a best friend or a worst enemy. It can be a tool for God or for Satan. And the choice is ours! It has the propensity (natural tendency) to corrupt but at the same time it can be employed as an instrument of praise. The tongue can cut one’s heart or it can heal the heart. James declares in James 3:10, when he said, “Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing….”. Consider this little poem entitled “A Word Spoken”. “A careless word may kindle strife, A cruel word may wreck a life; A bitter word may hate instill, A brutal word may smite and kill. BUT A gracious word may smooth the way, A joyous word may brighten the day; A timely word may lessen stress, A loving word may heal and bless.” It is so easy for us to slip and to criticize or say something cutting about a brother or a sister, devoid of love. It is so tempting to pass on a seemingly true story about another person without first checking out all the facts about the matter. It results in a story of half-truths with lots of speculations which can be most distressing and damaging to the person concerned. We all know that this is wrong, yet it is so difficult to control and tame the tongue, so as not to do it. I feel it is more than timely to remind ourselves of God’s Word in respect to the proper use of the tongue (how we ought to control it) that the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ be not blasphemed nor brought to shame. If not, the testimony of the church can be destroyed and her effectiveness in reaching out for Christ in the home, the place of studies or work, the neighbourhood, the community and the world will be impeded. Church history is filled with many inter-personal conflicts as the result of speaking evil one of another. How many churches have been divided, destroyed and disgraced by hateful and critical tongues! For that reason, James exhorts thus, “Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?” (James 4:11-12). The concern here is about a brother slandering another brother. Slander within the church is unacceptable and far from being Christ-like. Instead, believers have been exhorted to love, support and protect one another in the bonds of peace. The apostle Paul has this to say in Romans 12:17-19, “Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is

written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” Again and again, the Apostle Paul spared no effort in his epistles encouraging his readers who were the people of God in their relationship with God and with one another. In Philippians 2:1-4, he wrote thus, “If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” And again in Ephesians 4:31-32, he exhorted the believers thus, “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.” And do you know what if we are not willing to forgive one another? Take heed to the words of Christ Himself when He said in Matthew 6:14-15, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Too often we take this warning far too lightly. And for that reason our lives lack the joy and peace and blessing which the Lord is waiting to give us. ‘Familiarity breeds contempt’, so the saying goes but to every true believer in Christ, may I humbly counsel that you seek to obey Him for your own soul’s sake.
The question you may like to ask is – “What are the sins of the tongue?” In the epistle of James, he lists the following: lying, backbiting, gossiping, and slandering. All these sins if allowed to prevail will cause serious problems to the sanctity of the church which will ultimately affect her witness and testimony for the Lord.

How then can a believer best employ his tongue? What are the antidotes for a wayward tongue? How can one sanctify the tongue? James provides a number of ways prescribing four (4) possible uses for it.
First, we are to use our tongue in the exercise of prayer. In James 5:13, we read, “Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray….” And again in verse 16, he stresses on the importance of prayer thus, “…The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” There is much power in prayer. God delights to hear the prayers of the righteous. He earnestly waits for our petitions and requests because the very act of prayer is our acknowledgment of our dependence on Him. And He desires to meet our needs according to His promises. Instead of using our tongue for unsanctified and unholy things, let us use it to bless God and others as well. Secondly, we are to use our tongue to sing the praises of our God as exhorted “Let him sing psalms” (5:13b). This is another blessed way to use our tongue. Every believer should use his tongue to bless the Lord our God and Jesus Christ, His Son. In Ephesians 5:19-21 we are exhorted thus, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” Yes, we ought to sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to encourage, comfort, strengthen, and bless our hearts. We can sing and praise God wherever we are and in whatever situation we may be in for “whoso offereth praise glorifieth Me: and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I show the salvation of God” (Psalm 50:23). When we are constantly praying and praising God there will be no time for criticisms. So let us use our tongue to sing His praises always. A good example is found in 1 Chronicles 29:10, when we see king David praying thus, “…Blessed be thou, LORD God of Israel our father, forever and ever.” And at the end of prayer, he “…said to all the congregation, Now bless the LORD your God. And all the congregation blessed the LORD God of their fathers, and bowed down their heads, and worshiped the LORD, and the king.” (1 Chronicles 29:20) We trust that more would join in the pre-service singspiration every Sunday at 1:40 p.m. so as to prepare our hearts for worship. Thirdly, we are to use our tongue in confessing our faults one with another. James 5:16a intimates, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.”

Who does not have faults? If we are honest we all have our own particular shortcomings or failings which we are oftentimes unaware of ourselves. When we confess our faults one to another, two wonderful things happen. The first is that we have the opportunity to pray for each other and the second is that our conscience and spirit are purged. When Christians confess their faults one to another there is honesty and openness between believers which will result in harmony and unity of purpose.
Fourthly, we are to use our tongue in the salvation of souls. James 5:20 reminds us thus, “Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.” Therefore, let us use our tongue to witness to the unsaved reaching out to them for Christ. God can use your tongue to “convert the sinner” for salvation is of the Lord. More should be involved in our neighbourhood tracting. It is a blessed employment of our tongue to reach out to the unsaved. Let us speak to our loved ones telling them about the great salvation in Christ Jesus for faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Brethren, let our “..speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” (Colossians 4:6) And forget not that “a soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness.” (Proverbs 15:1-2) Let our tongue be used to pray, praise and preach about the Lord Jesus Christ manifesting our faith to the honour of our Lord Jesus Christ to whom be the glory forever and ever, Amen.