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The Tongue: A Spring Of Bitterness Or Blessing?

By Gordon Chilvers

    Our words have a great influence on others. Guides sometimes warn tourists among the Swiss mountains not to speak as they pass certain points. Even the reverberation of a whisper in the air may start a poised avalanche from its place on the crags. We never know when a passing word of ours will decide a soul’s destiny. There are times in the history of a soul when life is so delicately balanced that sometimes it depends upon the first words with which a person is greeted whether he sinks into the darkness of despair, or lifts up his head in hope. We can say something which will help a soul to heaven, or something which will bring him nearer to hell. We can give a bias to his whole character and influence every part of his life.

A Wrong Use of the Tongue

    One of the most prevalent sins of the tongue is that of criticism. Yet it is one of the most dangerous uses of it. A. B. Simpson stated this fact most vividly: "I would rather play with forked lightning or take in my hands living wires than speak a reckless word against any servant of Christ, or idly repeat the slanderous darts which thousands of Christians are hurling on others to the hurt of their own souls and bodies." It is most serious in its consequences. It has separated old friends and brought cruel misunderstandings. It has blasted the reputations of godly men. It has broken the hearts of many of God’s dearest saints. It has blocked the power of the Holy Spirit in many churches.

    Words of criticism hurt the one who speaks. They do not help the one who hears them. They injure the one of whom they are spoken. Criticism and slander of the people of God are the work of the devil, and there is no need for any of us to assist him in this wicked practice. Here is a word of warning. A godly minister was approached by one of his church members, who wanted to repeat to him some of the wrongdoings of others. The pastor said: "Does anybody else know this but you?" "No, sir." "Have you told it to anybody else?" "No." "Then," said the good man, "go home and hide it away at the feet of Jesus, and never speak of it again unless God leads you to speak to the man himself. If the Lord wants to bring scandal upon His Church, let Him do it; but don’t you be the instrument to cause it."

    Sins of the tongue bring their own judgment. As A. B. Simpson expressed it: "You may often wonder, perhaps, why your sickness is not healed, your spirit not filled with the joy of the Holy Ghost, or your life not blessed and spiritually prosperous. It may be that some dart which you have flung with angry voice, or in an idle hour of thoughtless gossip, is pursuing you on its way, as it completes the circle which always brings back to the source from which it came every shaft of bitterness, and every idle and evil word. Let us remember when we persecute or hurt the children of God, we are but persecuting Him, and hurting ourselves far more." God created the tongue that it might be used for the highest and most holy purposes. The tongue should always be used for good; any other use is misuse.

    "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you" (Eph. 4:29-32).

    – Taken from The Sunday School Times.