If I think something but don’t say it out loud, am I gaining anything? Do I please the Lord more by thinking something wrong and changing my heart about it before I say it aloud?
If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.
We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.
Of course I turned to James for the clear warnings on how dangerous our words can be. I also read through Matthew 5 which talks about lusting in your heart being the same as adultery or being angry with someone being the equivalent of murder.
Come, my children, and listen to me,
and I will teach you to fear the Lord.
Does anyone want to live a life
that is long and prosperous?
Then keep your tongue from speaking evil
and your lips from telling lies!
Turn away from evil and do good.
Search for peace, and work to maintain it.
Watch your tongue and keep your mouth shut,
and you will stay out of trouble.
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. And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.
Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and discipline.
My child, listen when your father corrects you.
Don’t neglect your mother’s instruction.
What you learn from them will crown you with grace
and be a chain of honor around your neck.
The heart of the godly thinks carefully before speaking;
the mouth of the wicked overflows with evil words.
Alright, I’ve posted eight thousand verses here, but my conclusion is that I should be renewing my mind (Ephesians 4:23) through the Holy Spirit and checking my words before they come out of my mouth. I don’t see an excuse to let every thought and idea roll off my tongue no matter how evil or crass it might be. Hey, God still loves me and that’s part of who I am so it’s okay, right? For many believers, I think Satan is using baggage from our upbringing in the church to convince us that it’s okay to say whatever we’re feeling (after all we’ve been living to please others for way too long). See Proverbs 1:7-9 above also regarding what we’ve learned from our parents. While God knows our thoughts whether we vocalize them or not, the consequences of speaking them out loud can be quite different. Of course the verses in James above warn that our tongue can start a fire (or as The Message puts it “turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it”) or render our religion worthless. Psalms and Proverbs tell us that guarding our mouths from speaking evil keeps us out of trouble and can lead to a long and prosperous life.
Am I saying it’s okay to think evil thoughts as long as we don’t speak them? Certainly not. However, I do think that because of our sinful nature we will struggle with bad thoughts and have to constantly be renewing our minds and meditating on scripture in order to claim victory over those sinful thoughts. In my marriage, I may have horrible thoughts about my husband or his behavior in my fit of rage. Is it worthwhile for me to share each and every one of those with him? I don’t think it is. Most of the time, I’ve learned that I need to quiet my heart and pray. I believe the Holy Spirit is at work in his life as He is in mine. Speaking irrational negativities is not helpful or God-honoring in that situation. At the time it is so incredibly difficult to hold those biting remarks in, but after the disagreement is resolved, I am so glad that God helped me maintain that restraint. And I am grateful that my husband doesn’t have to have flashbacks of the horrible statements that flew out unchecked. I am by no means perfect at controlling my tongue. There are plenty of things I’ve said and regretted and apologized for and pleaded for God’s forgiveness because I was very, very wrong.
So, I don’t know if I’ve made any sense at all, but I really did this writing for myself. I’ve been mulling this idea around in my head tonight and wanted to look up verses to shed light on the subject. Thoughts anyone?