My college tennis coach was an unusual man. He had the looks of a Hollywood actor, a master’s degree in English, and many tennis trophies on his mantel. He once remarked: “You can tell a lot about the quality of a person’s education by how well they speak.” He went on to explain that if they speak poorly, meaning bad grammar and poor communication skills, they didn’t receive a good education, regardless of the university. He felt that a school of higher learning was responsible to teach its students how to speak well no matter their course of study.
His statement applies to our spiritual life, too. In this case, it’s not our grammar or syntax but how we manage our tongues.
James said, if you can control your mouth, you’re perfect—not sinless, but “mature, healthy.” A mature believer speaks correctly.
Here are three reasons why we must speak correctly.
1. Our tongue has power to control our destiny.
Our words have a tremendous influence and control over our lives. We shape our words and then our words shape us. The tongue is small; it’s tiny. And because it’s tiny we think it’s insignificant. But it has tremendous power.
Consider a horse’s bit. A huge stallion weighing 2,000-3,000 pounds carries a 95 pound jockey on its back. The jockey can control the tremendous mighty horse by a little piece of metal stuck strategically over his tongue. Likewise our tongue controls the direction of our life. A word or a phrase can influence the ultimate direction of our life.
Consider a cruise ship. It has three acres of recreational space on board. The anchor is equal to the weight of ten cars. Yet a relatively small rudder directs the ship out in the middle of the sea. A little rudder keeps it on course. Our tongue is like that. Our tongue is like a rudder that steers us. Our tongue directs where we go. Our tongue is the steering wheel of our life. It is the guidance system. If we don’t like the way we’re headed right now, change the way we talk.
2. Our tongue has the power to destroy our life.
Imagine a beautiful forest, tall beautiful trees everywhere. Now imagine it going up in smoke, completely destroyed due to an inadvertent tiny match.
Our tongue can destroy like that. We can lose it all. A careless word can destroy a life. Rumors and gossip are like fire. It spreads quickly and it wrecks havoc. A careless word has destroyed many marriages, careers, reputations, churches, and friendships.
Driving through the Smokey Mountains signs are posted: “If you see a bear don’t get out of your car. Don’t roll down the window. Don’t feed the bears. ” Why? Bears look tame, but they can rip your head off.
The same is true for our tongue. The tongue is restless, always liable to break out. We never know what our mouth is going to say.
3. Our tongue has the power to reveal our demeanor.
How can we express love to our kids, and the next moment be harsh, cold, mean to them? How can we talk to our spouse in gentle, loving tones and the next minute be cruel to them? Consider the source. Whatever is in the well comes out in the water. Whatever is in the tree comes out in the fruit.
Our problem is not really our tongue. Our problem is our heart. What’s inside is what comes out. Our mouth eventually betrays what is really on the inside. We can fool people for awhile, but eventually our tongue is going to reveal what’s on the inside.
It’s true, “You can tell a lot about the depth of a person’s walk with God by how they speak.” What does your tongue say about your walk with God? What does it reveal about you?