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Controlling Our Tongues

August 29th, 2012

A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back… Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.

Proverbs 29:11, 20

The purpose of Proverbs is to teach us how to live a wise and moral life in a fallen world. There are dangers on both sides of any path we take, and dangers from within our own hearts as well. And we must know how to live wisely and prudently. It is a miracle of God’s grace and a sign of His knowledge that regardless of how fallen this world becomes, God still has advice for us on how to live.

We would be tempted to think the opposite, that the world is so fallen that only a devil really knows how to live here. But God insists on the opposite, that those who walk in the Spirit will know more about how to navigate the seas of moral failure than the most experienced in the world’s ways, and He will teach us to do it with grace and compassion, offering hope to the fallen and salvation for those who are convicted of sin and convinced that Christ is the answer. “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,” rather delights in the law of the Lord (Psalm 1:1-2).

God’s advice is for us to be aware that our emotions may rage within, and that there will be moments when we must hold back our words. A wise person will be careful with what he says, aware that the simplest phrase uttered in anger or out of hurt may result in more anger and hurt. Fear also, another strong emotion, can provoke more fear. We have often been told that we need to let it out, not hold it in, that we need to express our feelings rather than bottle them up, for otherwise they may explode one day and do more damage. There may be an element of truth in this perspective, but there are better ways of self expression than to lambast those around us with rage and fear.

Prayer is given for a means of expression of our fears and emotions to God. The Christian fellowship is also a means by which we can share life with others. Our pride prevents us from being honest with our brothers and sisters, and we do bottle up our emotions needlessly. Humility, honesty, winsome graciousness, the ability to laugh at ourselves, and especially faith in the goodness and grace of God (confidence), along with a desire for righteousness – these traits help us to find people with whom we can share our lives.

It is possible that someone may be very knowledgeable, may know the best answers in difficult circumstances, and may be steeped in experience and practical wisdom, yet if he is unable to bridle his tongue, if he is unable to know when to speak and when to be silent, all of this knowledge may never be appropriately appreciated. “Though I speak in the tongues of men and of angels but have not love I am like a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor. 13:1). People do not normally care how much we know, until they know how much we care.

The wisest among us has learned to settle his deepest fears and emotions in prayer and in the confidential community with fellow Christians. When we cannot pray through a matter, we should have the humility to go to our trusted Christian friend and talk through the issue and pray together about the matter. The truly disciplined believer is also a very humble person, and it is the humble people the Lord loves to exalt.

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