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“Whoever conceals hatred with lying lips and spreads slander is a fool” (Prov. 10:18). In the book of Proverbs, anyone who does not follow the path of wisdom is a fool. If that’s true, and if we’re honest, then not only are we sinners who violate God’s commands regarding our tongue, but we are also fools. So, what hope is there for pastors who have been foolish in the way they’ve used their tongue? For this, we will look at how the gospel redeems the tongue.
By having perfect speech, Jesus was the only one who perfectly fulfilled God’s intention for the tongue. He never used a rash word, He was never divisive, never told a lie, never gossiped, never flattered anyone, never spread false rumours, and never manipulated people. But on the positive side, how was His speech perfect?
First, Jesus is the Word of God. The Word that became flesh. His words brought life. When Jesus asked His disciples if they wanted to leave Him, Peter said “To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68-69). His words brought physical, spiritual and emotional healing. Even his adversaries admitted of him, “No man ever spoke like this man” (John 7:46).
Second, Jesus spoke truthful words. He even identified Himself as Truth itself. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Every word Jesus spoke was pure and unadulterated truth. Isaiah said of him, “There was no deceit in his mouth” (Is. 53:9).
Third, Jesus’ words were kind. Every word He spoke was with intention. Prov. 12:25 says, “Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up”. When the widow at Nain lost her son, she was weighed down by anxiety, but then Jesus raised her son from the dead (Luke 7:11-17).
Fourth, Jesus was gentle in every area of His life, including His speech. Jesus never quarrelled or shouted at people. Matt 12:19 says, “He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets.” This prophecy from Isa. 42 was fulfilled in the way Jesus used His words. Jesus was perfectly gentle.
Fifth, Jesus used apt words. He knew what to say, how to say it, and when to say it. In John 11, when Lazarus dies, Martha, his sister, comes and sees Jesus. She says, “Oh Lord, if you were here my brother would not have died.” What does Jesus say? He gives her a theological explanation of the resurrection. He says ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he dies, yet shall he live.” When Mary, the other sister of Lazarus comes to Jesus, she says the exact same words to Jesus that her sister Martha had said. However, this time Jesus doesn’t immediately respond. What does Jesus do? He weeps. Why? He responds with apt words because he knows when words are necessary. and when words are not needed, He remains silent. This is how Jesus, the embodiment of wisdom, used His tongue.
People used their words against Jesus. During Jesus’ earthly ministry, His enemies called him a glutton and a drunkard which are characteristics of a fool. When put on trial by Jewish and Gentile authorities, Jesus was treated like a fool was to be treated in the book of Proverbs. David Wenkel says, “Jesus was a fool bearer.” A fool bearer is actually not a fool at all, but one who is prepared to be seen and treated as such. And how is a fool supposed to be treated according to Proverbs? He is to be beaten on his back. All of the Gospels record that Jesus was beaten on His back. Why was this necessary? All of us are fools in the way we’ve used our tongue. Jesus was whipped and scourged on His back and suffered as a fool for our sake. Why did He do this? Because He loves you, pastor. He loves you and me so much that He suffered on the cross for our sins. His back was beaten for our foolish speech. When we think about what our Lord has done for us, it should melt our hearts and cause us to say, “Oh Lord, please forgive me! I’m sorry for the way I’ve sinned against You in my words. Change my heart and my tongue.”
In conclusion, Jesus used His tongue perfectly. As pastors, we should not obey the commands regarding the tongue because we think God will show us extra favour or more love. The Father loves us perfectly in His Son. Whenever you are tempted to disobey God in the way you speak, think about Jesus dying on the cross for the specific sins you committed. This will help you fight against the temptation to use your tongue sinfully. Prayerfully and humbly ask God for grace to imitate Jesus in your speech, and He will answer you. This is the will of God for you, your sanctification.
Let the words of Col 3:12-17 be our motto:
“Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Practical ways in which we can seek to redeem the tongue:
The opposite of cursing men in James 3 is praising God. What do we praise God for? For the gospel. As we meditate on the gospel, it leads us to praise God with our tongue, effectively renewing our minds which empowers us to put off the old man. Find a person in your church with whom you can together praise God. This is part of discipleship. Meeting with another person in your church to praise God with your words will help both of you to use your tongue rightly. It will also be a means to strengthen the church.
Confess sin to God and to men. James 3 says that we use our tongue for boasting and cursing. Boasting is building ourselves up with words, trying to “spin” events to make ourselves look good, defending ourselves, and making excuses for our actions. Cursing is putting other people down, talking bad about other people, and gossiping. We need to confess our sins of boasting and cursing to God and to members of our local church. God is honoured by our obedience as he forgives our sin and gives us the grace to grow in being wise with our tongue.
May God help us to use our tongue for His glory.