Taming the Tongue

Taming the Tongue

“Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!” -Psalm 141:3

And my heart just sinks. You see, there are scriptures that are deeply set in eschatology, the study of Christ, that require much study and contemplation to find understanding. Then there are scriptures like Psalm 141:3 that are just as practical as they can be and I remember how important the ‘little’ things are. One of those ‘little’ things is knowing when to speak.

The psalmist knew something that most of us know all too well: Words are important. The true uppers and downers of our society, words possess great power. I never knew how important words were until I was six years old and a good friend and I were playing together at my house. We made our way to my mom’s closet and began to try on everything we could find. My mother was always a stunningly stylish lady and she had a collection of hats that would threaten the female patrons of the Kentucky Derby!

words possess great power

My sweet friend found a hat she thought was the perfect complement to her borrowed outfit and asked me the loaded question, “How do I look?” Unaware of decorum, I responded, “Eww, that makes your face look ugly!”

She was crushed. Someone she trusted had hurt her deeply with only a few words. After some tears and my mom’s intervention, I apologized and she went home for the day. My words had great impact. Thankfully, I have learned much more about the importance keeping watch over the door of my lips over the years.

When we Speak

So how are we to speak?

·       Gently – 1 Peter 3:15 instructs us to “give an answer to those who ask,” to do it with gentleness and respect, and to keep a clear conscience. Our goal is “to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people” (Titus 3:2).

·       Graciously – Colossians 4:6 instructs us: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”

·       Boldly – Just as Paul asked the church in Ephesus to pray for his boldness (Ephesians 6:18-20), so we should ask the Lord that “words may be given to [us] in opening [our] mouths boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which [we are] ambassadors in chains, that [we] may declare it boldly, as [we] ought to speak.”

And what do we speak of?

·       Truth – We are to speak truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) and put away falsehood (Ephesians 4:25). We are to speak the truth in Christ and not lie (Romans 9:1). And when we speak in godly clarity and truth, we are teaching and admonishing one another with wisdom (Colossians 3:16).

·       The Gospel – Jesus’ last commandment He gave to His disciples was to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19) – and it shouldn’t be overlooked that these were some of His last words.

go and make disciples of all nations

When Not to Speak

So when is silence best and beneficial?

  • Moments of anger - James 1:19 instructs us: “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” When we are angry, there’s a high likelihood that our words will not be produced by the Holy Spirit.


  • Avoiding sin - Proverbs 10:19 tells us: “Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.” Scripture also tells us that silence can help us gain respect (Proverbs 11:12) and is deemed wise and intelligent (Proverbs 17:28). In other words, you may be blessed by holding your tongue.


  • Maintaining self-control – Ultimately, refraining from speaking in certain situations means we are practicing self-control. And we know that self-control, a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22), is a discipline that is blessed.

Ecclesiastes 3:7 tells us there is “a time to speak and a time to be silent.” Let’s prepare now for those moments when our tongues are ready for action by memorizing scriptures like Titus 3:2 and James 1:19. Would you join me in my journey of taming the tongue?