It’s been said that a person’s worth depends upon their two smallest organs: their heart and their tongue. One of my favorite teachers, John T. Willis from Abilene Christian University, quotes this story from Morgenstern’s commentary on Genesis:
Rabban Simon ben Gamaliel once ordered his servant to bring from the market the best thing to be found there. To the good rabbi’s surprise he brought a tongue. At another time the rabbi commanded him to bring the worst thing the market could offer. To his still greater surprise the servant again brought a tongue. “How is this?” the master asked. “When I bade thee bring the best thing the market provided, thou didst bring a tongue. And now that I have ordered the worst thing, thou doest still bring a tongue?”
“Good master,” answered the wise servant, “dost thou not know that a tongue may be either the best or the worst thing in this world accordingly as its owner uses it?”
Do you remember this playground proverb: “Sticks and stones my break my bones but names can never hurt me”? Well, they were wrong. My bones may heal but I may never get over some of the hurtful things people have said about me.
One of the most beautiful people I ever met was called “Sunshine.” (It was the 70’s after all.) She had long blonde hair, (It was the 70’s. Did I mention that?) blue eyes, a cute button nose sprinkled with freckles and a snowy white smile that would melt your heart. She modeled for Andrew Wyeth and appeared in Life Magazine one Christmas but Sunshine never did acknowledge her beauty because the boys in High School called her “Stumps.” They said her legs were too short and she never forgot their teasing. I told her Abe Lincoln was teased for just the opposite reason. People said his legs were too long but he didn’t let it bother him. Mr. Lincoln observed: “A man’s legs should reach from about his waist to the ground and that’s all that matters.”
Jesus’ brother, James, warns us, “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell,” (James 3:6).
So how do we go about “tongue taming”? Here are some hints:
- Granny’s observation was correct: “God gave us two ears and one tongue so we should listen twice as much as we talk.”
- Before you open your mouth, ask yourself, “Is it necessary for me to say anything?” Someone joked, “Christians don’t gossip, they just share prayer requests.”
- Ask yourself, “Is it true?”
- Ask yourself, “Is it kind?”
Finally, share this prayer, “Lord, may my words be tender and kind for I may have to eat them.”