The Right Kind Of Tongue Psalm 34:13

Keep thy tongue from evil.—Psa_34:13.

Supposing someone were to present you with a sword and to tell you that you could use it as you pleased, what would you do with it? Well, there are two ways in which you could employ it. First, you could use it to destroy things—to cut open the covering of your mother’s chairs or slit her pictures or even to hurt and kill people. Or, second, you could use it to fight for the right and to defend the weak. Which do you think would be the better way?

Well, each of us possesses a weapon and we can use it in either a bad or a good way—we can use it to hurt and destroy, or we can use it to help and bless. It is a very powerful weapon and can be very dangerous, so it is necessary that we should learn to use it in the right way. Now if you look at the text perhaps you will be able to guess the name of the weapon. Yes, it is the tongue, and today I want to speak to you about the right kind of tongue.

Do you realize what an important thing the tongue is? I should like you to learn that fact now and never forget it, because if you become quite sure of it, you will save yourself and other people a great deal of trouble.

Never think that what you say is a small thing. Sometimes it counts more than what you do. There are a lot of people going about the world who seem to think that it doesn’t matter much what they say, so long as what they do is all right. Some of them are quite kind and well-meaning, and they would be very much surprised if you told them that they were doing much more harm by their words than good by their deeds. Part of our duty to our neighbors is to “hurt nobody by word,” and yet you hear people saying silly things such as “words don’t hurt.” Words do hurt. They can do a very great deal of harm. They can break friendships, and spoil lives, and sometimes they can even kill. The Bible doesn’t let us think that words don’t count. It has a very great deal to say to us about the right and the wrong use of the tongue.

Now if I were going to tell you all there is to tell about the right kind of tongue I should be talking for hours, and if you hadn’t fallen asleep long before then you would inform me that I didn’t know how to keep my tongue in order; so I’m going to mention just a few things about it and you can think out the rest for yourselves.

1. First of all, the right kind of tongue is a well-controlled tongue. It knows when to be quiet and when to speak. It doesn’t blurt out just whatever comes uppermost. It doesn’t go on chattering when it ought to be quiet. It doesn’t give away secrets that don’t belong to it. It doesn’t run off at a gallop like a badly-trained horse.

There is an Eastern proverb which says, “Of thine unspoken word thou art master: thy spoken word is master of thee.” And that just means that so long as we have a thought in our minds it is our own, but if we speak it out it is ours no longer. We can never get it back again, and it is a power against us for good or evil as the case may be.

Boys, flying kites, haul in their white-winged birds,
But you can’t do that when you’re flying words.
Thoughts unexprest may sometimes drop back dead,
But God Himself can’t kill them when they’re said.

2. And secondly, the right kind of tongue is a true tongue.

There are two things I want to say about the true tongue. The first thing is that it is nearly always cowardly to tell a lie. It is better far to suffer for telling the truth than to escape punishment and lose your honor. If you have done wrong, own up like a man; don’t deny it like a sneak.

The second thing is that there are more ways of telling an untruth than one. What makes a lie is the intention to deceive. You may lie by saying what is true in word but not in sense. And you may lie by consenting to a lie, by being silent when you ought to speak.

3. In the third place, the right kind of tongue is the pure tongue, the tongue that does not stoop to repeat any bad stories or nasty jokes, above all the tongue that does not stoop to the cheap distinction of taking God’s name in vain.

Boys, this is one of the shabbiest and lowest-down tricks you can play. If you heard another boy speak lightly or disparagingly of your earthly father you would want to knock him down though he were twice your size, and yet you yourself don’t hesitate to take your Heavenly Father’s name lightly and foolishly upon your lips. And why? To show how brave and daring you are? Surely that is a poor sort of courage which deliberately defies a God who loves you too much to visit you with His judgment. To show how big you are? You deceive nobody but yourself. It is mostly childish men who stoop to such language. It is generally when things are going against them that they use it, and then it serves them instead of the tears of a baby who can’t get what it wants.

In the service of a certain American planter there was once a black slave boy, part of whose duty was to wait on his master at table. Now this planter had got into a very bad habit of swearing, and he began to notice an unusual thing. Whenever, during a meal, he took God’s name in vain, the slave boy bowed his head.

At last he questioned him about it and the boy answered, “The Great Name always fills my soul with awe and reverence and so I bow my head.”

The reply so struck the planter that he made a determined effort to get the better of his fault, and in the end he succeeded.

And, boys and girls, that is the only way we should ever presume to take the Great Name upon our lips— in a spirit of awe and reverence. .

4. Again, the right kind of tongue is a hind tongue, the tongue that prefers to say good about others rather than evil. Never twist and deform your tongue by picking out people’s faults and speaking about them. If you hear a nasty thing about anyone, don’t let it go any farther. If there were no one to repeat nasty stories they would soon stop. If you must talk about others try to find the best things to say about them. Use your tongue to cheer and comfort, and the world will be a great deal happier and better for your having lived in it.

A little word in kindness spoken
.   .   .   .   .   .   .
Has often healed the heart that’s broken
And made a friend sincere.
Then deem it not an idle thing
A pleasant word to speak.

5. And lastly, the right kind of tongue is the gentle tongue, the tongue that is not easily roused to anger. There is a right place for anger in this world and it is a great gift if properly used. Christ was filled with Divine anger when He drove the money-changers from His Father’s house. But if we are going to use our tongue in fighting petty squabbles we shall never have the great and noble anger that scorches and burns up the evil in the world. It takes two to make a quarrel, and if one of the two gives the “soft answer” that “turneth away wrath” no quarrel can last long.

Can you remember then these five things about the right kind of tongue? It must be a well-controlled tongue—not given to chattering heedlessly. It must be a true tongue—too brave to tell a lie. It must be a pure tongue—too proud to stoop to anything mean, or low, or profane. It must be a kind tongue that prefers to say good rather than evil, and it must be a gentle tongue that turns away wrath.

There is just one thing more I want you to remember, and it is the most important of all. You will never have the right kind of tongue unless you have the right kind of heart, for “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” Our tongue just tells what our mind thinks, and if we want to have the right kind of tongue, the tongue that is kept from evil, we must ask God to give us the right kind of heart.

(The texts of the other sermons in this series are Exo_23:9; 1Sa_3:10; Psa_24:4 (2); Pro_6:13; Mal_1:13; Luk_6:41; 1Pe_3:4; 1Pe_5:5.)