It strikes me that most people acknowledge that there is life and death in their words. Most people understand words of ‘life’ as meaning words which are nice, friendly and encouraging. Most people understand words of ‘death’ as meaning words which are negative and unwholesome. However, the Bible gives us clear examples concerning what a tongue that has been offered to God as an instrument of righteousness should look like.
God made your tongue for a purpose. When God made your tongue, He intended for only one kind of thing to flow out of it – ‘only that which is helpful for building others up…’
This means that your tongue was not created for self-expression, for venting your anger or your frustration. Your tongue was not created in order that you can tell the world your negative feelings – it was never designed so that you could criticize your work colleagues or your husband’s family.
The essence of sin is falling short of God’s original intention – it is not always about committing come terrible crime. I don’t believe there is one person who can honestly say they have always used their tongue as God originally intended. Anytime we speak something that doesn’t build another person up or glorify the name of Jesus, we are sinning – we are falling short of God’s original intention for our tongue.
So many people use their mouths to be negative. Few people use their mouths to empower others and to speak positively.
Positive speakers stand out – you’re out for a meal after work with your work-colleagues and the conversation is following its normal pattern (people criticizing the boss or the company – people moaning about the wife, the government or the current economic condition). But you make a deliberate decision to talk about what God can do – you will stand out – you will be the light that is not hidden under the bucket – you will help to remove the grey clouds that hang over so many peoples lives.
There are married couples who waste so much time talking about bad things – things that don’t really matter. I remember an ocassion, during cell group, when God reminded me to ‘bite my lip’ – if we respond to a negative word with another negative word – the cycle never ends – the end result is more negative words on top of more negative words. At this point you are out of the will of God – you are no longer using your tongue to help build up others according to their need.
Jesus bit his lip! He had a lot of negative things said to him – things that at times must have hurt him – but during those times this is what Jesus did: ‘When Jesus was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. The Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge – to the great amazement of the governor’ (Matthew 27:12-14).
Jesus made no reply. Jesus trusted God to carry out any judgment that might be needed. Jesus did not try to justify himself – he did not try to punish those who spoke negatively against him. Jesus didn’t spend hours shouting back his side of the argument. Jesus simply bit his lip and continued to love his enemies, right up until his death.