Guilty: My Tongue Needs Tamed


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Have you ever listened to a sermon or read a book and felt guilty?  Conviction that the message is for you?

Oh my word (pun intended as you’ll see!).  That’s how I felt this morning.

I am a talker.  I love people, I love talking, I love joking…oh, and I love to talk.

Recently, I’ve been participating in a mentoring class with my friend, Lisa.  I have been learning the value of listening more and more.  I actually like to listen too.  I just love conversing period, especially about Jesus.  I understand Him and His word so much better when I process aloud.

Talking about Jesus is awesome.  But, this morning my pastor reminded me that talking about others – even in jest – is not.

And that’s where my downfall lies.  I’ll join others in joking about someone else – even if I say nothing, I laugh.  It may seem innocent.  It may be hilarious.  But, I am held accountable for those words – each and every one.

I’ve recently been guilty of doing this to those in authority.  Those who feel powerless often joke about those in authority – that’s nothing new.  But, still, it’s sin.

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal.Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts.Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire,a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body,sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. James 3:3-6

Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.

Consider what harm has been done to you by a flippant or sarcastic comment.  Sure, you laughed it off and smiled.  I do that all the time.  But, it’s still hurtful.  Words hurt.

Consider what harm you can do with a flippant or sarcastic comment.

Ouch.   Been there and done that sadly.

God immediately brought to my mind how I’ve joked about the incompetence of a few people in my life.  (We all know the heart of that:  While that person may be incompetent, my joking about them translates to “I am competent and the other is not; I know the right way; I am better. Ugh.  Yuck!)

How I’d love to take these words back.  Actually, the two people God brought to my mind have NO idea I’ve joined others in joking about them.  One I barely know.  But, what a crappy witness I’ve been by joining the jokesters.

And, I’ll admit:  Change in this area will be hard because I hate being “that kid” – the one who goes against the grain.  That’s the one some joke about for thinking he/she is holier than thou.  Now, I think…nope.  They aren’t being judgmental or acting better.

They are honoring God.

Ugh.  I know the harm that comes from words.  I’ve felt it.  I’ve been impacted by it.  I have harmed others.   And while I think I am being funny, there’s nothing funny about hurting others.  I can’t help but think of Matthew 7:12.

In everything,therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you…

Maybe you’re not a jokester, but you

  • Take cheap shots at others, putting them down
  • Gossip about others, perhaps disguising it as a prayer request
  • Perpetuate rumors
  • Share things that you’ve promised to keep private
  • Trash talked another’s school or team, especially in person, during a game.
  • Made yourself look good at the expense of others.  You know, “I may not be perfect but at least I don’t_____ like so and so does.”
  • Maximize the sins of others while minimizing your sin.  I don’t struggle with homosexuality, so it’s easy for me to target that sin while minimizing my hurtful, sarcastic comments.
  • Dismiss an unkind remark.  I do this with an “I am just kidding!”  There’s truth in jest.
  • Sarcasm and joking.

(Thanks to my pastor for this list.)

I also thought about the obvious:  motive, attitude, and intention.  If my heart /motive isn’t to harm, but just to get a laugh, is it ok then?  Or just to relieve the tension?  Is it ok then?

Does that make it hurt the listener less?  Does that make it ok?  No.  It’s just not ok to “bust” on someone or joke about others.

We are held accountable to God for how we use our tongue:  for life or for death  – for good or for evil (James 3:10).

I want to speak life. Always.  I bet you do too. None us get out of bed in the morning thinking…let’s see who I can hurt today.  Yet, we have to be intentional if we want to avoid hurtful words.

I am thankful for a pastor who will proclaim these truths even while he (admittedly) is in process and struggling with aspects of his own message.

I join him in processing and praying for God to work on my tongue, shutting my mouth when He knows I am about to speak death and not life.


  1. Sarah, what a timely and relevant word you shared! Thank you for your personal vulnerability and transparency. You ARE leading by example. Your Pastor will be proud- and I am sure your Father in heaven is pleased. Thank you. This hit home and brought conviction to me too!

  2. I have trouble with this everyday at my job. Thank you for sharing and being obedient to God through this blog.

    • Remember, Jeremy, just because we know this doesn’t mean we will change. I wish it did! We are works in progress. Not projects. So, take a step in the right direction tomorrow. Begin your day with prayer, asking God to help you in this area. Then cry out to him during the day as you begin to see what and who seems to set you off easiest. You’ll still mess up. We all do. But our faithful God will meet you in the mess and begin to change you, growing you to be more and more like him. There’s hope. Prayers:)

  3. Thank you for this, Sarah! It’s a lovely reminder that we could all use. “Speak life” has been a word spoken to me for a little over a year now, and it has remained something dear to my heart in so many ways. Praying for you (and for all of us!) to use our words to be life-giving.

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