“Help me … to be saved from unregenerate temper, hard thoughts, slanderous words, meanness, unkind manners, to master my tongue and keep the door of my lips.” (The Valley of Vision)
The Bible has a lot to say about our tongues, the way in which we speak. Take a gander at Proverbs or even James and you’ll quickly notice how we use our tongues is no small subject.
This passage in the popular Puritan devotional The Valley of Vision speaks to this topic as well—and gets very specific. We need to continually pray this prayer and be intentional about the way in which we speak.
This isn’t something we can gloss over or ignore, for the words we speak and how we speak them reveals what’s inside our hearts (Matt. 15:16). We must, as the prayer says, “master [our] tongue.”
The question, then, is this: How can we master our tongue? How can we keep the door of our lips? By remembering three crucial things.
Our opinion isn’t always needed. All Christians—and, really, society at large—should take heed of this. Not only is our opinion not always needed, but sometimes even unhelpful. Social media is a perfect example of this. Whatever the platform, everybody gives their hot take on the latest controversy.
The Bible has much to say about giving opinion, but let’s settle on one:
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.Proverbs 18:2
It’s not about understanding; it’s not about hashing things out; it’s not about demonstrating the view of the other person correctly. It’s solely about letting his voice be heard. And, if we’re honest, this is all of us. It varies, as not everybody deals with this problem in the same degree, but we can surely agree we’ve all had moments where we were only engaging in a conversion to voice our opinion, not to understand and discuss.
Be aware of your tone (but not too aware). I’m not advocating to be your own tone police, but I am saying be careful about how you come across. In today’s culture arena, this can be difficult to navigate because society is, for the most part, easily offended.
There will be times you’re perfectly pleasant, but when you’re conveying hard truths, you will still offend. That’s okay. But many times we offend because we’re too sarcastic, too crass, or too abrasive. (I kinda wrote a whole book on this subject, you should give it a read.)
Stay grounded in the means of grace. The moment we begin to neglect God’s designated means of grace is the moment we stop guarding our tongue. How can we learn to keep our mouth’s shut when we need to? By saturating ourselves with Scripture, being in constant prayer, and being plugged into the local church.
This is really the remedy for any type of sin, but when we stay in the means of grace, our tongues become more and more holy, more and more sanctified. We become less sarcastic; we hold our tongue more even when we’d prefer to let our opinion be heard. We don’t feel the incessant need to be in every social media argument.
Friends, when we’re grounded in the means of grace, the Holy Spirit is shaping our tongue to glorify God, not self. Our tongue is a small but ferocious thing. James echoes this sentiment:
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 3:6
Given the knowledge of how dangerous our tongues can be, we must pray for God to “keep the door of [our] lip[s].”