Do you ever wish you could take back something you have said? Maybe words spoken in anger, criticism, or just negative words that did no good? Our mouths have such power to do good or evil. Sometimes it may seem that we just can’t even control what comes out, but the good news is that we can! The secret is to focus less on words and more on God. The Psalmist knew this secret:
Your statutes are wonderful; therefore I obey them. The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. I open my mouth and pant, longing for your commands. Turn to me and have mercy on me, as you always do to those who love your name. Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me. Redeem me from the oppression of men, that I may obey your precepts. Make your face shine upon your servant and teach me your decrees. Streams of tears flow from my eyes, for your law is not obeyed (NIV).
The entirety of Psalm 119 is an acrostic of the Hebrew alphabet, so every eight verses begins with the subsequent letter. These eight verses all begin with the letter pey. The ancient pictograph for pey looks like a mouth, and the word pey means “mouth, word, or speech.”
Remember our last letter, ayin, which means “eye” or “understanding”? Hebrew children were taught that ayin comes before pey because we need to watch and learn before we speak.
The Bible has much to say about words, speech, and the tongue. Most of us know these verses, but how many of us struggle to make these truths a reality in our everyday lives? Let me share three tips for wise speech.
1. Check your heart.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer (Psalm 19:14).
A wise man’s heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction (Proverbs 16:23).
For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34).
Do you see the connection between the heart and the mouth? The first step to wise speech is to search our hearts before God and ask Him to show us anything that is not of Him. If we have repressed anger, unforgiveness, bitterness, jealousy, envy, pride, or discontent, these sins will spew forth out of our mouths.
Spend some time with the Lord and confess every sin He brings to mind–not just the things we’ve said and done, but the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. He can give you a clean heart, and that will clean up your speech.
2. Check your lips.
Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips (Psalm 141:3).
When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise (Proverbs 10:19).
He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin (Proverbs 13:3).
My meaning for the word “check” here is “stop.” Ask God to stop your tongue and give you time to think and understand before you speak. I know what you’re thinking (me, too): That is easier said than done. Especially for those of us who like to talk. 🙂
But if you look back at Psalm 119 at the top of the post, the Psalmist gives us the remedy for that problem in verse 131:
I open my mouth and pant, longing for your commands.
That brings us to our last tip.
3. Check your worship.
I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips (Psalm 34:1).
He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God (Psalm 40:3).
My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long (Psalm 71:8).
If you, like me, have trouble keeping your tongue in check, remember that James, the brother of Jesus, said that if we could tame our tongues, we would be perfect (James 3:1-12), so we know that this struggle is difficult. Proverbs tells us that the power of life and death is in the tongue (18:21). That’s a powerful word! I don’t know about you, but I want my tongue to bring life!
Remember, when your heart is right with God, He can close your mouth and teach you to wait and gain understanding and insight before you speak. Then open that mouth and declare His praise! The more room we make for God in our lives, the less room we have for self.
So let that heart be free from sin, let those eyes give you wisdom before you speak, and let those lips open wide and declare His praise. There is life in you today. Let it out.