Thursdays With Spurgeon—Our Tricky Tongues

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

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Our Tricky Tongues

I said, “I will guard my ways, lest I sin with my tongue; I will restrain my mouth with a muzzle, while the wicked are before me.” I was mute with silence, I held my peace even from good; and my sorrow was stirred up. My heart was hot within me; while I was musing, the fire burned…. (Psalm 39:1-3)

     Tongue sins are great sins; like sparks of fire ill words spread and do great damage. ‘I will guard my ways, lest I sin with my tongue’ (v. 1). If believers utter hard words of God in times of depression, the ungodly will take them up and use them as a justification for their sinful courses. If parents’ own children rail at them, no wonder if their enemies’ mouths are full of abuse. 

      Our tongue always wants watching, for it is fidgety as an ill-broken horse, but especially must we hold it in when the sharp cuts of the Lord’s rod excite it to rebel. 

     David was not quite so wise as our translation would make him; if he had resolved to be very guarded in his speech, it would have been altogether commendable. When he went so far as to condemn himself to entire silence, ‘even from good,’ there must have been at least a little sullenness in his soul.

From Spurgeon And The Psalms

Oh, how often our tongues trip us up! More times than we would like to admit, our tongues completely undo the good example we have previously shown. James spends almost an entire chapter talking about the fire our tongues can kindle, concluding that our tongues are “a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:1-18)! 

Part of David’s solution was to notice who was around him so that his words would not add fuel to their skepticism about God. But notice that he went too far because he didn’t speak out the good that he should have spoken. 

Clearly, there is a time to speak and a time to be silent. David’s son Solomon talked about the wisdom of speaking the appropriate words at the appropriate time (see especially Proverbs 10).  

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis talks about a valuable discipline: A personal review of our words and actions at the end of the day. After all, it’s hard to correct something of which we are unaware. Here’s what Lewis wrote—

“When I come to my evening prayers and try to reckon up the sins of the day, nine times out of ten the most obvious one is some sin against charity; I have sulked or snapped or sneered or snubbed or stormed. And the excuse that immediately springs to mind is that the provocation was so sudden or unexpected. I was caught off my guard, I had not time to collect myself…. Surely what a man does when he is taken off guard is the best evidence of what sort of man he is. Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth. If there are rats in the cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness did not create the rats; it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man: it only shows what an ill-tempered man I am.” 

We would do well to pause and ask the Holy Spirit to show us the rats in our cellar—evil words spoken that shouldn’t have been uttered, and helpful words left unspoken at the moment they should have been said. If we will humbly listen, the Holy Spirit will help us mature in this vital area of taming our tricky tongues. 

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