The Tool of the Tongue

“Sticks and stones … but words will never hurt me,” we used to say, but we know that it is not true. In fact, many are emotionally crippled from words spoken many years ago. Broken bones have healed and scarred, but the heart is still wounded and bleeding from angry words or cruel jesting spoken yesteryears. And time does not heal all wounds.

The Bible tells us,

Death and life are in the power of the tongue. ~ Proverbs 18:21

How many have been so deeply wounded, and parts of them killed, because of words? We casually speak hurtful words, dismissing the seriousness of any wounds or consequences. We justify our anger,  as we delight in another’s hurt feelings. “The idiots deserve it,” we say. We jest and make fun because it makes us, somehow, feel superior. We claim, “It was only a joke, they need to get over it!” Even though another was verbally and emotionally abused and molested; they were humiliated and shamed, pieces of them robbed and broken. Death is in the power of the tongue. So is it any wonder Jesus tells us,

You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.” But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, “You fool!” will be liable to the hell of fire. ~ Matthew 5:21-22

Elsewhere, Jesus says,

But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. ~ Matthew 15:18-19

Obviously, there is nothing intrinsically evil about the tongue. Like a rock, knife, machete, or nail gun, the tongue is but a tool. If used properly, it has the potential of such beneficial good. However, if misused, it can do unbelievable damage. In fact, Jesus equates abusive speech with murder, and tells us the words we speak reveal what is already filling the heart (murder, adultery, theft, etc.).

James writes of the destructive wickedness of the tongue in his short epistle:

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!  And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. ~ James 3:5-6

Consider all the malicious, abusive, and slanderous talk permeating and  being absorbed throughout our society and world on social media, in our schools, in political arenas, etc. This is not simply venting. Much of it truly is murderous and violent, creating such division and flames set ablaze by hell.

May God help each of us to learn to control our tongues, and to start using them for healing and mending. Have we not seen and heard enough destructive talk?

How Have We Become So Mean and Nasty?

The political climate and polarization of our country have become extremely toxic, releasing the poisons of hypocrisy and hatred. Strangely, while different sides are spewing out derogatory and accusative terms (racists, Hitler/Nazis, fascists, snowflakes, cry babies, —phobics, etc.), and labeling others as evil, each reveal—from both the Left and the Right—the murder in their own hearts. Social media has only confounded the issue more, as people remove nearly all filters, including common decency and respect. No one is safe or immune from the abusive language. 

Are we on the brink of becoming a nation of savages? Aside from the obvious violence and riots in various cities, just consider the things people say on Facebook, Twitter, etc. We often see the quotes on Twitter coming from celebrities, journalists, and politicians exploding with nastiness and profanities directed at another. On Facebook average Joes belittle one another relentlessly and viciously because of differing views. There is rarely actual conversing, but accusations laced with profanities.

Of our own president some have portrayed him being beheaded, and some have posted they hope he dies from Covid. Similar things are said about other politicians. Many make fun of another political that appears to be facing early stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s. From where does such nastiness come, and what does it reveal? While hatred and derision are vomited out of our mouths or pounded on our buttons, Jesus reveals to us the ugly truth from where our words come—and worse, what they reveal.

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. ~ Luke 6:45 (ESV)

You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. ~ Matthew 12:34

You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.” But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, “You fool!” will be liable to the hell of fire. ~ Matthew 5:21-22

Did you catch these? Our words come from our hearts, which are either like refreshing fountains or repulsive cesspools. Furthermore, our nasty, malicious words reveal the evil of murder in our hearts.

The apostle Paul, referencing Old Testament passages, writes,

All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” ~ Romans 3:12-18

Just as lust-filled glances reveal the immorality in a man’s heart, Jesus says our mean-spirited words reveal the malice and murder in our own hearts. This stinging truth is just as true for the Right as it is for the left; for liberals and conservatives; for Republicans and Democrats; and irregardless of color or nationality.

While degrading others and trying to take the specks out of others’ eyes, Jesus blasts us by confronting us with our own hypocrisy:

How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. ~ Matthew 7:4-5

How have we become so mean and nasty? How can we expect others to be decent while we ourselves are not behaving decently? According to Jesus, we are to look to Him in faith, and for forgiveness, and He will help clean us up from the inside out. From there, we are to be kind, loving, and just regardless how others behave. How can our cities and nation be rid of the violence if we refuse to confess and repent of the violence raging in our own hearts? Our hypocrisies serve only as fuel on the fires.