The Door Of Our Lips Psalm 141:3

Set a watch, O Lord, before ray mouth;
Keep the door of my lips.—Psa_141:3.

I WANT to speak to you about a door which we all own. It is a red folding door with two halves which meet in the middle, and it is worked by an invisible power.

Now, of course, a door generally leads somewhere. And this door is no exception. It leads into a large, red room, rather like a cave, where dwells a very troublesome and unruly person. This person is always wanting to send messages to the world, and it is the business of the door to keep back the bad messages, and let through only those which are good, or useful, or wise.

I wonder if you have guessed the name of the door. Yes, it is the “door of our lips,” and the room that it leads to is the room of our mouth, where dwells that very troublesome and unruly member the tongue.

But of course a door can’t open or shut of itself. It must have somebody or something to move it. And so God has appointed you ruler or guardian over that door, and your will is the invisible power that opens or shuts it.

I wonder how you are keeping your door. Are you guarding it carefully, or just allowing anything to pass it? At the entrance to those old strongholds whose ruins we may still see there was always a strong gate or door. But at that entrance there was also a sentinel whose duty it was to challenge everyone who wished to pass. On him rested the responsibility of keeping out those who should not be allowed in, and letting out only those who should be allowed out. The door might be very strong but it would be of little use unless the sentinel were watchful and careful. Now you have been made sentinel at the door of your lips. It is a strong door and quite fit to keep back anything that should not pass it, but it will be of little use unless you guard it well.

I am not going to say much about the words which we should not allow to pass the door of our lips because you know them very well by name. There are the words of anger that sting and burn, the lying and deceitful words, the impure and profane words, the unkind words that hurt, the mean words that say ill of our neighbor behind his back.

I am not going to speak about these words, but I want to give you three reasons why we should keep the door so carefully, and then I shall tell you of two safeguards which will ensure the door’s being kept securely.

1. The first reason is that once our words have passed the door we can never get them back again.
They have gone from us for ever, away out into the big, wide world, and we cannot tell what good or what harm they will do, or where they will stop. They were ours once—before we spoke them—but they will never be ours again. And so we should be careful never, so far as we can prevent it, to say anything that would hurt anyone, never to repeat anything that would do another harm.

There is a story of a king who became friendly with a certain major in his army. One day news was brought to the mess that the major had been thrown from his horse and was dead. The king was very sorry, but he noticed an unusual thing—none of the major’s friends seemed to regret his loss. After the meal was over, he detained the colonel and inquired the reason of this strange lack of feeling. The colonel explained that though the major—who was a brave and daring leader—might be missed as an officer, no one would miss him as a friend. For he had continually made mischief among the officers and carried unkind tales from one to the other.

Next day the major appeared before the king. After all, he had been only hurt and stunned, not killed. The king received him coldly and told him to come to him the following morning at six o’clock, bringing with him a spare horse and a sack of feathers.

Next morning the king rode with the major some miles into the country to a spot where, on a wild moorland, four roads met. There they dismounted, and the king ordered the officer to empty the sack of feathers at the cross-roads. That done, he bade him appear before him at the same hour next day bringing the empty sack.

The officer did as he was commanded, and again the king rode with him to the cross-roads. There they dismounted, and the king ordered the major to fill his sack with the feathers which he had scattered the previous day.

The major was filled with consternation. “Your Majesty,” said he, “I would give my life for you, but I cannot do the impossible! The feathers are scattered to the four winds of heaven. I cannot gather them up.”

“Just so,” replied the king, “and in like manner it is impossible to gather up all the unkind gossip and evil rumours you have spread abroad. Go home, and in future place a greater restraint upon your tongue.”

2. The second reason why we should keep this door carefully is that our lips are the doorway, not only of our mouth, but of our soul. The words we speak show what kind of soul we have. If foolish words pass through, it proves that we have a weak and foolish soul; if unkind words, a cruel soul; if untruthful words, a deceitful soul; if impure or profane words, a black, mean soul. But if our words are kind, and pure, and true, it proves that our heart is loving, and clean, and sincere.

And not only do our words show what our soul is like, but they do it good or ill, even as they are good or ill. We cannot say anything bad, or unkind, or untrue without hurting our soul, without making it a little harder and uglier.

3. But the biggest reason of all why we should guard this door is that God gives it to us in trust and He expects us to make the best use of it. He gave us the wonderful gift of speech, and He wants us to use it in the service of all that is happy, and true, and noble. Let us not allow anything to pass the door of our lips that would soil them or spoil them. When we are small we sometimes think there is so little we can do for Jesus. Well, this one thing we can do for Him. We can keep the door of our lips.

But how are we to keep our lips? Sometimes in spite of us they betray us. They utter things we had not meant to say. They get sadly out of control. Well, there are two safeguards.

1. Keep the door busy opening and shutting to let through kind, and beautiful, and wise words. Then it will have no time or place for the others. Satan finds some mischief still for idle tongues to speak, as well as for idle hands to do.

2. Ask Jesus to keep watch along with you. The man who composed this psalm felt too weak to keep the door alone, and nobody is strong enough for that. But Jesus knows the loneliness of a sentinel and his difficulties. He is pleased when He sees you trying to keep the door, and He is willing and glad to help you.

You’d be surprised, I’m sure, to know
How far your little words can go,
How many miles they run away
Up hill and down, a single day;
How many angry hearts they wake,
How many pleasant friends they make;
How many wise things they can tell,
What very simple ones as well;
How many busy, brave, and true,
How many false and lazy, too.
So, take good care before each word
By anybody else is heard,
That it shall truly worthy be
To join a happy company
Of helpful words, that run with grace,
And bear sweet sunshine in the face.
(F. W. Hutt.)