This verse strikes close to home. How often am I guilty of speaking before thinking? How often have I, while in the throes of anger, spit out unkind and injurious words toward another? How often, in a pique of jealousy, have I gossiped, or cast aspersions upon someone’s reputation behind their back in order to gain some momentary benefit for myself? How many times have I cursed, or blasphemed in anger or frustration? Indeed, how often have I been guilty of the lie?
The tongue is both a gift and a danger. Its ability for both have been extolled in scripture and theology, as well as in literature and philosophy from the beginning. With it we can save and we can destroy. We can lift up or tear down. Our mouths and our lips are capable of great beauty in prayer and in poetry, and they are equally capable of great ugliness as we see above.
Proverbs: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” (Proverbs 18:21)
Matthew’s Gospel: “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:36-37)
As human beings capable of rational thought and inquiry, we are the only creatures in God’s creation who can use our tongues for good or for evil. David has recognized this in his own life. After all, it was he who ordered Bathsheba to be brought to him, even though he knew she was married. It was he who called Uriah away from the battlefield and tried to manipulate him, with the words of his mouth and lips, to sleep with his wife, Bathsheba, in order to cover up his adultery with her and the resulting pregnancy. And then, worst of all, with his mouth and lips, David gave orders to bring about Uriah’s death so that he could have Bathsheba for himself.
We are no different than David. We, too, have misused our mouth and our lips for selfish purposes. Like David, we know our guilt and we call on God for deliverance. With him we pray, “Do not let my heart be drawn to what is evil so that I take part in wicked deeds along with those who are evildoers; do not let me eat their delicacies.” (verse 4)
Lord, help us to gain control over our mouths and our lips. Help us to speak only that which is good, true and beautiful. By your grace guard our mouths from causing injury, from engaging in any kind of deceit. Help us to shut the door of our lips when we are about to speak unkindly toward others. Give us the grace to practice more and more the humble disciplines of listening and silence. Let our tongues be faithful instruments of praise and thanksgiving. We ask these prayers in your name, Lord Jesus. Amen!
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