top of page

Taming an Unruly Tongue by Dr. Dave Madenberg

How many times have we regretted saying something hurtful to a friend, a

loved one, a co-worker, or even fellow believer?

How many times have we spoken words without first thinking about what

consequences the words would bring?

How many times have people hurt us by their words?

And, how many times have we made a vow or promise, yet failed to keep it?

We all know from experience our words cannot be retrieved once they leave the confines of our mouth.

God's word tells us in Eccl 5:2-3, "Do not be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart utter anything hastily before God, For God is in heaven, and you on earth; Therefore, let your words be few ... (for) a fool's voice is known by his many words."

Many of us have heard the expression: 'God gave us two ears and one mouth. Therefore, we are to listen twice as much as we speak.'

Some may find this message a good reminder. For others, it may be a rebuke which should be taken seriously. If we fail to take heed of God's correction or rebuke, the next step might be punishment.

In Jas 3:6-10, we read: "And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell." ... "But no man can tame the tongue." "It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God." "Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so."

To impart this message, a message I believe God spoke to me for my own correction, I'd like to consider the following five examples of an unruly tongue.

(Example 1) Verbal disagreements and exchanges.

Scenario: You, and your spouse, or some other loved one or friend, have gotten into a verbal disagreement. The dispute escalates to where the words become hurtful. Neither party is willing to bend ... because both parties feel he or she is correct in the matter.

At the end of the dispute, both hearts have been injured by the other's words. And there is still no winner.

But, now, neither party wants to talk to the other because of the reviling words that were spewed. So, both go to bed angry and unforgiving.

Definition of revile: Criticize in an abusive, angry, or insulting manner.

WHAT DOES GOD'S WORD ADVISE us to do in this situation?

Q. What did Jesus do when He was reviled? 1 Peter 2:23 tells us: "Who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously ..."

If we know 'beyond a shadow of doubt' our view is correct in a matter, but we nevertheless give in and submit, turning the other cheek to avoid a dispute which could become heated, 1Peter 2:19-20 tells us:

"For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures

grief, suffering wrongfully." "But when you do good and suffer if you take it

patiently, this is commendable before God."

Q. What does God's word advise wives to do in a quarrel with her husband?

1Peter 3:1-5, says: "Wives, ... be submissive to your own husbands ... Do not let your adornment be merely outward - arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel - rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God."

Q. And what are husbands instructed to do when quarreling with their wives? In 1Peter 3:7, "Husbands, ... dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered."

Husbands, have we ever considered if we don't dwell with our wives with understanding ... our prayers may be hindered or go unanswered?

AND TO BOTH PARTIES, God's word tells us in Prov 15:1, "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."

And Eph 4:26-32 tells us, "Be angry, and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil," ... "Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth," ... "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption." "Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice." "And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you."

-If we allow the sun to go down and go to sleep while still angry; If we don't repent and resolve a dispute before going to sleep ... we are lying our heads down while yet in 'unforgiveness.'

"Well, what's the big deal? We can always resolve the issue tomorrow."

But, what if tomorrow never comes for us? What if we die that very night while in unforgiveness? The bible is very clear: If we don't forgive others of their trespasses, neither will God forgive us of our trespasses. So, if we die while still unforgiving, will our destination be heaven? And as we stand before God, how do we explain to Him why we have not forgiven that person?

"Be angry, and do not sin (through unforgiveness)." "Do not let the sun go down on your wrath."

And scripture also teaches us in Eccl 7:8-9, "The patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit. Do not hasten in your spirit to be angry, for anger rests in the bosom of fools."

The proud person may say, "I'll show her (him)! I am not going to lose this battle regardless of how much her (his) heart is injured."

Anger is foolish. It does no good. And if prolonged, anger can turn into hatred or even lead to revenge.

But, if one party is absolutely unwilling to bend, or compromise, or attempt to resolve the issue, we have to give it to God - there is little else we can do in the natural.

(Example 2) Don't be too quick to speak.

As Pastor Richard Wurmbrand reminds us in The Triumphant Church, "We do not take earnestly the words of Jesus who says that men will be judged not (only) for every bad word, but for every useless one ...”

So many people offer their opinion about things which they may have little, or no knowledge. I know I have been guilty of this along the way.

Eccl 5: 1-3 instructs us: "Walk prudently when you go to the house of God; and draw near to hear rather than to give the sacrifice of fools (speaking foolishly or without knowledge of what we speak), for they do not know that they do evil."

"Do not be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart utter anything hastily before God." "For God is in heaven, and you on earth;" "Therefore let your words be few." " ... a fool's voice is known by his many words."

And Eccl 5: 6-7 says: "Do not let your mouth cause your flesh to sin, nor say before the messenger of God that it was an error." (Oh! I was just joking.) "Why should God be angry at your excuse and destroy the work of your hands?" (That is, punish us because, 'I was just joking.')

And finally, in James 1:19-20, we read: "So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God."

God gave us two ears and one mouth - we should listen twice as much as we speak.

(Example 3) Stop coarse jesting and speaking with foul language.

Dictionary definition of coarse jesting: 'Coarse jesting and crude joking are attempts to elicit laughs by crossing a line into impropriety; Such as the use of foul language, sexual innuendo, and sexually explicit jokes.'

What does God's word say about coarse jesting and unwholesome words:

Eph 4:29-31 tells us: "Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearer." "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice."

The New Living Translation says this: "Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them."

This sort of joking and foul language grieves the Holy Spirit who lives within us. And if this sort of joking and evil speaking becomes persistent, the Holy Spirit may actually depart from us!

I recently had a good discussion about this very issue with a brother in Christ. He believes the Holy Spirit would not leave a person because His departure would expose him to the enemy. I countered that God would not live in a pig pen ... in a person with a chronically foul mouth ... God is holy. I reasoned, if God would never take His Holy Spirit from a person, then why did David, a man after God's own heart and a prophet, pray this in Psalm 51:11 -

"Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me."

God hates coarse jesting and foul language. It's ranked it right up there with fornication and covetousness. Eph 5:3-5 says, "But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting ..." "For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolator, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God." And verse 8 says: "For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light ..."

The website, Got Questions, says this about joking:

”... Biblically speaking, joking itself is not regarded as sin, although in some instances, it certainly can be." "Proverbs 18:21 tells us that 'the tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.' The tongue is a powerful thing, and words can either bring great life or great hurt."

"There are ways to joke that edify. But there is also a way to joke that is demeaning and harmful, and we are called in Eph 4:29 not to let any unwholesome talk come out of our mouths ... The best way to know whether our joking is bordering on the sinful is to seek the Holy Spirit and ask for His conviction. He can make us sensitive to when a joke is appropriate and when it may not be." "If there is any doubt in our minds, or if our consciences are being pricked by our joking, it is probably best to forego it."

My prayer is what David prayed in Ps 141:3, "Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips."

(Example 4) Stop gossiping!

A believer is not to participate in gossip. The dictionary definition of gossiping is: "Informal talk or stories about other people's private lives, which may be unkind or untrue; to talk idly, especially about the affairs of others; to tattle."

Yet, gossip is an activity in which many believers participate.

People who confide in us trust we won't reveal their personal matters to others. But, gossip does just that; and those who gossip betray that person's trust.

Sometimes, gossip is a means of getting even with a person who may have gossiped about us, hurting us through embarrassment or tarnishing our reputation. But, we are not to take vengeance on that person by gossiping about him: Not repaying an eye for an eye, and tooth for tooth. God has said in His word vengeance is His and He will repay ... in His timing.

Some verses of scripture that teach us about gossiping and gossipers:

Prov 11:13 says: "A talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter."

And it's important that we not take to heart all that people say about us. I was given a prophecy a couple of years ago, where the prophet told me this:

"People were judging you before and people are judging you now. But, what's important is what God writes in the book, not what people say about you or how they judge you." I have taken this message to heart.

Eccl 7:21-22 brings confirmation to this prophetic message: " ... do not take to heart everything people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. For many times, also, your own heart has known that even you have cursed others."

1Tim 5:13 speaks of young widows - and for that matter, anyone with spare time on his or her hands: "... they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not."

(Ex) In my twenties, well before giving my heart to the Lord, I was in a restaurant with friends gossiping about a person out of anger towards him. A few days later, I received a call from a mutual friend of the person about whom I was gossiping. He revealed to me everything that I said. I couldn't deny it. He even told me at what restaurant my negative comments were made. How could this be?

It turns out a relative of the person about whom I was gossiping was sitting at a nearby table and heard my entire diatribe.

And God's word addresses this form of gossiping in Eccl 10:20,

"Do not curse the king, even in your thought; do not curse the rich, even in your bedroom; For a bird of the air may carry your voice, and a bird in flight may tell the matter." And I can attest to that bird being present in that restaurant, on that day!

As I was researching the topic of 'Gossip,' I came across this from 'Got Questions' website:

Seven ways you can tell if you gossip too much:

  • The People Who are Around You Love Drama.

  • You Can't Wait To Tell Secrets.

  • People Stop Sharing With You (because they know you gossip).

  • You Have Trouble Coming Up With Other Conversation (besides gossip).

  • You Feel Better About Yourself When Sharing negative info. (about others).

  • People Come To You With Juicy Information (knowing you will spread it).

  • People Are Talking About You (and how you gossip).

A few weeks ago, I was listening to a video by Prophet Sadhu Selvaraj who spoke about the 'Anointing of a Duck.'

I will apply what he said to gossip: If any of us become the subject of gossip, ask God for 'the anointing of a duck.' Let gossip and unfruitful criticism flow off of you as water flows off a duck's back. And if any of us becomes the subject of gossip, die to self and fully surrender the matter to God. He is the avenger. And if you are the gossiper ... REPENT.

A caveat to this is that sometimes criticism is good if it brings correction and is constructive.

(Example 5) Pay your vows to both God and man.

God's word is replete with verses about how we must pay our vows to both God and man. Just a few of these verses:

Numbers 30:2 says: "If a man vows a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word. He shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth."

Jonah 2:9, "But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay..."

2 Samuel 15:7 "And at the end of four years Absalom said to the king, Please let me go and pay my vow, which I have vowed to the Lord, in Hebron."

James 5:12 says: ”But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation."

And Deut. 23:21-23, “If you make a vow to the Lord your God, you shall not delay fulfilling it, for the Lord your God will surely require it of you, and you will be guilty of sin. But if you refrain from vowing, you will not be guilty of sin. You shall be careful to do what has passed your lips, for you have voluntarily vowed to the Lord your God what you have promised with your mouth."

(Ex) A person may tell God: "Lord, if you allow me to get that promotion, then I will go to church every Sunday!" That vow had better be paid!

Q: What does God think of a person who voluntarily makes a vow or promise, but fails to pay it? Does God really take it that seriously?

What happened to Ananias and Sapphira in Acts chapter 5? They vowed to give all the proceeds of their land sale to the disciples, but secretly held a portion back for themselves. What did God do? God put both of them to death for not paying their vow to the disciples as promised. It seems God wanted to show the first century church (and us) how seriously He takes failing to pay a vow or keep a promise.

(Ex) A person asks us for a loan, saying he will pay it back in a certain period of time. But, he fails to pay back the loan in the promised timeframe. What does God expect of him?

He must ask for forgiveness and acknowledge his failure to repay. Some people simply ignore their vow or promise, hoping we will forget about the debt that he owes us. This is an worldly, ungodly thought process.

It's unlikely God will strike that person dead on the spot. And although non-repayment of the debt doesn't constitute an unforgivable sin, the promise breaker will be held accountable on the day of judgment.

But, wouldn't it be safer for us to pay our vows to God and man rather than risk punishment by our Heavenly Father? Or, simply, don't vow or make a promise at all.

Believers must be careful of what they allow to proceed from their mouths.

Eccl 5:2 says: "Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few."

And it's important to remember our tongue can bless and our tongue can curse. And many times, believers don't realize what they allow to exit their mouth is actually a curse.

An example of this is when a parent becomes angry, and says to his or her child:

"You will never amount to anything." "You are incorrigible and worthless."

This is a curse! And if it circulates from the ears to the heart of that child, it can cause irreparable harm. But, spiritual warfare is a topic for another message.

So, let's be careful and ask God to place a guard over the door of our mouth.

And let's not forget what our Lord Jesus told his disciples and tells us in Matt 12:36-37, "But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment." "For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."


4 views0 comments


bottom of page