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“If any man seem to be religious and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is in vain.” - James 1:26

“ For in many things we offend all, if any man offendeth not in word, the same is a perfect man and able also to bridle the whole body” - James 3:2

These verses from the epistle of James show us that a man can fail or flourish in his spiritual life based upon how he uses his tongue. The tongue of course is not just an organ that acts independently or involuntarily apart from the motor impulses sent to it from the brain or mind. Therefore, though the tongue is personified in this book as a creature needing discipline, nevertheless its act of mouthing off recognizable, syllabic sounds we call words, originates in the heart or mind of an individual. For that reason, it is neither unreasonable nor incorrect to say that James is in essence talking here about controlling our thought life as well.

Sometimes, it is like an iceberg in the sea; first a little of the man is revealed from the words he speaks, but eventually the hidden mass of what he’s really made up of comes to full view. The tongue then, reflects the man in the sense that it expresses in intelligible words the thought or thoughts being processed by the actual person residing inside that outer shell we call a body, of which is the external member of the tongue. Hence, how critical it is then for us to learn self-control so as to silence any unedifying or downright destructive and deceitful talk before it is vaulted off of this little member known as the tongue. Indeed, there is something much worse in giving verbal _expression to an evil thought entertained within the heart and mind, than in harboring it privately within the confines of one’s own inner world. Of course, the sin of that wicked imagining is in no way diminished by keeping it a secret, for it is plain and bare before the eyes of Him with Whom we have to do. That we must give an account for the inner happenings and doings of our conscious cogitations as well as our choice of words is readily apparent in Scripture.

“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, …” - Mark 7:21

However, for our particular discussion, none can deny that wicked thoughts expressed in words have real potential to further create a new plethora of havoc.

Looking once again at the two quotations from the inspired Servant James, we see that true religion or relationship with God manifests itself in the controlled, right use of one’s tongue. Any misuse, such as in cursing, lying, slandering, railing, backbiting etc. would prove otherwise. This is especially verified to be the case of those who are habitual abusers of this major component of our speech faculty.

On the other hand, the second verse given above shows that the means to attain perfection or a state of spiritual maturity is in fact, the simple but deliberate disciplining of the tongue. How is that possible?

According to the Holy Spirit speaking to us from the Book of James, the tongue is the decisive instrument in dealing a deathblow to the inordinate activities of the rest of the members of the body. God’s Wisdom indeed is marvelous and unsearchable! He clearly teaches us that if a person’s conversational life is inoffensive, (i.e. not filled with lies or slander or deceit or railing or foolish talk and jesting etc.) then the person is able to subdue all the wrong impulses working in the rest of the body.

Taking this to heart, it is imperative then, yea it is a command that we through the Holy Spirit’s illumination and power do exercise supreme vigilance over that universally neglected enemy of unedifying speech. Surely, in this way a message of unmistakable clarity will be at once relayed back to the unrenewed mind of the Old Man, (which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts) that his will can no longer be carried out over the body.

In view of all the above, let us not ignore nor fail to heed fully the words of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 12:36:

But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.

Having given our subject a terse treatment from within a theological and theoretical context, one question remains:

What practical steps are to be taken now in order to tame the tongue and become perfect? Here then are the steps, which you and I must take in order to fulfill the Will of God with regards to taming our tongue:

1) Practice a watch over your words, even every word.
2) Let your words be few; let patience and peace rule your heart and mouth.
3) Let them be spiritually edifying and not spiritually damaging.
4) May your words be judiciously selected so as to promote healing and not hurt.
5) Even when rebukes are necessary, do so in a spirit of love and humility.
6) Use your tongue for giving thanks.
7) Speak to yourself and sing to the Lord in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, being filled with the Spirit.

Please Note: Do not get discouraged if your tongue “slips” now and then. A process of renewing is taking place within you as you seek to conform to the holy standard of the Word of God and so it may not come as automatically as you like. All the more though, determine to destroy every idle and foolish word from your speech and life! A holy determination, death to self and a heart alive unto God and Righteousness will surely get the Victory in Jesus!


Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer. - Psalms 19:14

The Holy Spirit will aid us as we join in the Christian pilgrims’ warfare and we will arrive one day soon in the City of our God with joy unspeakable and no regrets over our words or our deeds! The Blood of the Sinless Lamb of God has washed away the past sins!

Glory, Hallelujah!
Aim for a life with no regrets!
Jesus Christ is truly at the door!

© 2003 Pastor Pradeep Emmanuel Stephen

[Permission is granted to duplicate this article in its entirety, but only without additions, alterations or omissions of any kind, including the author and ministry name at the end.]