Humanly speaking, the tongue is used for tasting and enabling speech. Spiritually speaking, the tongue is God’s mouthpiece, capturing and extending the spiritual into the natural. Unfortunately, we fail to make use of it in the latter manner. When James talks about taming the tongue, we avoid hurling insults, avoid apt replies, avoid using censored words and then stop there. We then leave the tongue to serve its biological purposes, but not fully serving its spiritual purpose.
One does not have to flip the Bible for too long to see that speech is not devoid of spiritual implications. In fact, in the first pages, you will encounter a repetitive statement, ‘God said…And it was so’. Whatever God spoke, came into being. Few Chapters on in the Second Book, Moses trying to avoid God’s mission of speaking to Pharaoh to let the Israelites out of slavery says, ‘O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue’ (Exodus 4:11). God then reveals a deep mystery of the tongue when He responds;
‘What about your brother Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well…You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth, it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him.’
According to God, whenever we speak His Word, we take that same authority as Him. When Balak King of Moab summons Balaam the diviner to proclaim a curse to the Israelites, God instead tells Balaam, ‘You must not put a curse on those people, because they are blessed’ (Numbers 22:12). ‘The Lord put a message in Balaam’s mouth’ (23:v5), blessing the Israelites. When King Balak sees that tables have turned, he asks Balaam, ‘What have you done to me? I brought you to curse my enemies, but you have done nothing but bless them! (v11). Balaam responds, ‘Must I not speak what the Lord puts in my mouth?’ (v12).
Like Moses and Balaam, God has put words in our mouths that we must speak to overcome the spiritual Pharaoh- the devil and Balak’s curses- the devil’s attacks. However, we ignorantly become the devil’s prophet by speaking of what we see, by speaking how grave our circumstances and the world appear to be. We do not allow God to speak through us. We do not allow His Word, which is the Sword of the Spirit to richly dwell in us and take down the enemy. We speak of our degraded state of mind, health and circumstances and don’t proclaim the victory from God’s perspective with the same breath. With our spiritual tongue, we fail to ‘taste and see that the Lord is good’ (Psalms 34:8).
God’s Word is truth and our opinions, feelings, preferences, statistics, reports and results remain a lie. As a pessimist, I viewed life from a what can go wrong will go wrong perspective but as a Christian I had to override this view and tame my tongue and replace it with God’s Word of hope, blessing, restoration, renewal, health, promotion, victory, life and all the good things He proclaims. Sometimes however, the curve balls life throws causes us to speak on behalf of the devil instead of speaking as if we were God.
James admits, ‘We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never a fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check’ (James 3:2). Knowing this, when we are tempted to curse ourselves by not speaking what God has already commanded on our lives, we should immediately counter with God’s Word and in Jesus’s Name. ‘The tongue has the power of life and death’ writes King Solomon in Proverbs 18:21.
When an angel of God told Zechariah that his wife would bear a son, instead of agreeing with God, he asks, ‘How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well on in years’ (Luke 1:18). The angel answers, ‘And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe in my words, which will come true in their proper time’ (v20). When his son was born and he was asked his name, Zechariah wrote down the name that God had declared. ‘Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue was loosed, and he began to speak, praising God (v64).
He was subsequently filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied. He now praised God and not his problems. The Holy Spirit, which first descended on mankind like ‘tongues of fire’ (Acts 2:3) made Zechariah speak upon his son as if he were God himself. And this is exactly the power given to God’s children- the power to declare His Word, the power to confess unto salvation with our mouths, the power to speak like Him, and the power to ‘call those things that are not as if they are’ (Romans 4:17), even though like Zechariah we are not sure how they can be.