Have you hurt anyone’s feelings with your words? Have you talked about someone behind their back? Have you said something you’d like to take back? Yup, that tongue of yours has a mind of its own.

There’s a lot in the Bible about this. Here are a few samples:

A soft answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
The tongue of the wise dispenses knowledge,
but the mouths of fools pour out folly.
A gentle tongue is a tree of life,
but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.
Evil plans are an abomination to the LORD,
but gracious words are pure.

The mind of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil. (Proverbs 15:1-2, 4, 28)

To watch over mouth and tongue is to keep out of trouble. (Proverbs 21:23)

Jesus: “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” (Matthew 15:1)

You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. (James 1:19-20, 26)

For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. (James 3:7-9)

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone. (Colossians 4:6)

Control of your tongue is especially important in our closest relationships. You might think it would be the opposite: your immediate family, especially your spouse, is supposed to understand you and accept you unconditionally. But in fact, the closer you are to a person, the easier it is for your temperamental tongue to hurt them.

Have you noticed that disagreements with your spouse usually follow the same familiar path? You hear her words, and without thinking you come back with a line you’ve used over and over before. And you know what her response is going to be before she opens her mouth. Both of your tongues are on autopilot, and you’re on course for another bad crash.

Next time you realize you’re on this same track again, pause just a moment before you speak and pray this prayer from Psalm 141:3:

Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD;
keep watch over the door of my lips.

You’ll experience a miracle!

— Pastor George Van Alstine