The Word We Need for Our Untamed Tongue
by Kristen Hatton
And as soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. And they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate. And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” And the chief priests accused him of many things. And Pilate again asked him, “Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you.” But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.
It is no wonder Pilate was amazed! The Roman government was interrogating Jesus over the accusations of tax evasion, treason, and terrorism (since the charge of blasphemy against God would not hold up in a Roman court), and Jesus said nothing to discredit the lies or to defend Himself. Humiliation, rejection, being misunderstood, viewed poorly, and ultimately made to suffer and die, He counted as nothing compared to glorifying the Father by fulfilling His promises.
Oh, how unlike Jesus we are!
I’ve thought of this often over the past few days as everything in me wants to defend and justify the attacks and misconception directed at my husband. Not only do I want to clear the record and prove how wrong the accuser is in his thinking, but I also want to shoot back with my own accusations. I want this person to see his own shortcomings and sin and feel the weight of the hurt heaped on to us—and, to make sure no one else believes his lies. What I really want to do is rat him out to others.
So there you have it—my own sinful heart. Can you relate?
Are there times when you tear someone else down in order to make yourself look better?
Do you lash out at anyone who speaks against you or even holds a different opinion than you?
Is your tendency to dominate the conversation by your own self-promotion and pride?
Are your conversations peppered with gossip or unwholesome talk?
Do you stir up conflict or drama by adding your own fuel to the fires? Or, maybe you create the fires?
God’s Word tells me I am not alone. We all struggle in wanting to justify ourselves so others look favorably upon us and for various reasons find satisfaction in tearing others down. From the words of James,
“For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.” James 3:2-12
If this is true of all of us, which it is, can we not be honest enough to admit it? To see how desperately we all need a Savior whose perfect record of holding His tongue is credited to us!
Pilate was right—what Jesus did is amazing!
What He did, we won’t ever do right all the time. Jesus is the only perfect Man, and therefore the only One who never stumbled in what He said. It is here—in the amazement of what He did for us through His sacrificial life and death—that we love Him more. And the more we are captivated by who He is, the greater our desire becomes to live and to speak in a way honoring to Him. And by His grace, the more we care about glorifying Him, the less we will care about defending our own reputations.