“I shouldn’t have said that,” I said, “I’m not sure where that came from.” I had just expressed my frustration at someone after a long, hard week.
“That’s not you, Dan,” he said. But, honestly, that was me. Not the “me” I hoped other people thought I was, but the “me” I really am.
The Scriptures tell us that our tongues have a pipeline directly from our hearts. We only speak what we feel. Sure, we can cover up our true feelings with nice-sounding words, at times, but over the long course of life, who we really are gets spilled out in words.
I’m learning that a speech problem is not really a problem of picking the right words or not getting mad or not reacting adversely. A speech problem is really a heart problem.
James chapter three goes to the heart of evil speech. He reminds us that the tongue, in it’s natural state, is the source of all evil. He actually says that the source of the tongues vitriol goes even deeper than that. An evil tongue is fueled by the flames of Hell (James 3:6).
This seems a bit over-the-top, doesn’t it? But really this is good news. You see, there is something more wrong with us than simply bad words. We have a heart problem. Our hearts are corrupted, our tongues poisoned by sin. When Adam and Even fell, the entire human race was injected with the poison of Satan, the venom of evil.
So every single human being is born with a powerfully evil tongue. And it’s a tongue that James says, “no man can tame” James 3:7. Again, more bad news.
Except it was bad hearts Jesus came to rescue. In his death and resurrection, Jesus crushed that serpent and delivered the antidote for the venom of sin. So if you are a follower of Jesus, you no longer have to be a slave to an out-of-control tongue, fueled by a corrupt heart, fed by the flames of Hell.
Jesus tamed your tongue. And now, by submitting to His Spirit in repentance, you can begin to see that tongue used for good rather than evil. You see, the gospel message doesn’t say, “Keep your mouth shut.” No, God designed our tongues to be powerful. But instead of leading people to evil, instead of cutting and wounding, our tongues can be reservoirs of life, springs of gospel-soaked words that lift, rebuke, encourage, disciple, and love.
If you’re not a Christian, I would gently tell you that you’re only hope for improved speech is to admit your sinfulness and accept the cleansing grace of Jesus on the cross. And if you are a believer, you can find the grace to overcome a forked tongue. By daily repentance and cleansing, the Spirit can turn a tongue of evil into a tongue of good.
Because you’re words will never improve unless you admit that it’s not really your tongue that’s the problem.
It’s your heart.
Daniel Darling is an author, pastor, and public speaker. His latest book is Crash Course, Forming a Faith Foundation for Life. Visit him on Facebook by clicking here, follow on him on Twitter at twitter.com/dandarling, or check out his website: danieldarling.com.