“I dont want to be your friend anymore”
“You are stupid”
“That is the ugliest shirt, I’ve ever seen!”
One of the things that all children have in common is that they can be reckless with their tongue. Sadly adults struggle in their speech as well because, as James tell us, controlling the tongue is difficult.
There are a lot of good practical ideas out there for helping children (as well as adults) learn to control their speech, but we must not neglect the heart and mind in this process. Children, as well as parents, need to understand why we are to be careful with our tongue, why swearing is wrong, why it is so hard to control it, and how the heart itself is changed by the gospel.
Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies
Here are a few ways in which the tongue is used for evil and how we can fight against it.
The school bus stops right in front of our house and in the summer you can hear the laughter and chatter of the kids waiting there. But you can also hear the language that these kids use and some days it is shocking. The foul words roll off their tongue quite naturally and you have to wonder what kind of language is used at home.
It is easy to become jaded to the bad language that surrounds us. There is even debate within Christendom regarding what words Christians should or should not use. While the Bible does not give us a list of words to avoid, it is clear that we are to use our speech to edify those who are around us.
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
2. Taking the Lord’s name in vain
While the Lord’s name has become a swear word in our culture I have chosen to keep it separate from swearing. We are told in the third commandment to not take God’s name in vain (Ex.20:7). It is implied that we are to protect and guard the name of God. It is the most precious name on earth because it is the name of the One who gives us life and breath and everything else (Acts 17:25). In Jesus Christ he gave his life so we could live. What is more precious that this? His name is not a joke, nor is it something we should carelessly throw around in our speech. God’s name is not to be used as an exclamation of excitement or an expression of anger. His name should be used carefully and reverently.
3. Hurtful words
Many kids can be outright cruel to each other. They speak their mind without tact and do not use self control when they are upset. sadly grown ups are guilty of this as well. Hurtful words are ugly words because they bring pain to a person fashioned by the hand of God and stamped with his image.
“Do everything without complaining or arguing.” How often do we disregard this verse? I know I often fail here, and it’s not a small thing. It’s a serious matter because in our complaint we speaking out against the providence of God. When we complain about our day because it does not go according to our plan we are basically saying, “God your ways are not good and right, your plans are not for the best.”
Figuring out what we shouldn’t say is one thing, but what is the secret to actually guarding our mouths?
The Secret to Guarding Our Mouth
Our words and the words of our children are a window into our hearts. Our heart directs our speech (Lk. 6:45). If we want our kids and ourselves to have better tongues, then we must work at reaching the heart.
“If you would have better tongues—labor for better hearts. It is the heart which has influence upon the tongue. If the heart is vain and earthly—the tongue will be so. If the heart is holy—the tongue will be so.”
– Thomas Watson
The only thing that can reach and change our hearts is the word of God. It is the only tool sharp and powerful enough to cut out the sin that lies in there. “I have hidden your word in my heart that I may not sin against you.” (Ps. 119:11)
In God’s word we see how Christ held his tongue in the midst of scoffing and ridicule. How he remained silent before his accusers. And that his quiet submission to the will of God not only saves us, but shows us a better way. Where we all have failed in the words we use, Jesus has only ever spoken truth and honored his father. And in saving us from our sins he has also redeemed our speech so we can speak grace and truth ourselves. If we want speech that is honoring to God than we must direct our hearts and the hearts of our children to the word of God. The secret of Godly speech is in a heart changed by the word of God. It will be a guard for our lips.
Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.