The topic this week is one that I think all of us need to hear and be reminded of on a regular basis. As worship leaders, worshippers, and believers in general the world views and makes judgments about us based on several things: how we act and handle ourselves, and how we speak and interact with others. Are we compassionate? Encouraging? Quick to speak and slow to listen and think? Or do we use our words as a way to force our agenda or tear down others for personal gain, enjoyment, or even naturally or unintentionally?
All of us probably are well aware that the Bible doesn’t shy away from, or hold any blows, when it speaks of the tongue and how we as believers must interact with each other and the world. Scripture is pretty clear that we must tame our tongues at all costs. In fact, the word “tongue” (which is often used interchangeably with the word, language) is in the 1611 version of the KJV Bible 160 times! Think about it! That is a LOT! We have 66 books in our Protestant Bible and if we were to divide up those 160 times that the word “tongue” is used throughout those books it would appear almost 2.5 times in every book! Obviously God’s will is that we pay close attention to what the Word says about our tongues…
James 3:2-10 says,
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.
James 1:26 says,
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.
What I get from reading passages like the ones above is that the tongue isn’t something to be taken lightly. In reality our tongue makes up such a small part of who we are, but yet it determines so many things like: how we are perceived, how easy or hard we are to work with, whether or not people enjoy being around us or interacting with us, etc. With our tongues we hold the power to encourage and build up, or to tear down and destroy.
Proverbs 18:21 says,
Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.
Proverbs 15:4 says,
A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.
What does your tongue demonstrate and give? Life or death?
So… how does our tongue affect our weekly and congregational worship? Believe it or not, the worship that happens on Sundays in our churches is actually determined by far more than what happens during the music or preaching of God’s Word. We all know that our worship isn’t determined by or limited to the sound or words of a song, but rather that worship is an active lifestyle that inhabits all we are, think, say, and do, and that brings pleasure to the heart of God! This means that our actual worship happens more frequently off the stage than on because we interact with others each and every day and our corporate worship may be limited to 1 or 2 times a week on the stage!
How is the way you interact with those on and off the stage building a Christ-like character within them? Are you encouraging and building them up with your interactions and words or are you sowing a seed of darkness and death in their lives and souls?
I am convicted personally, and I think we should all be, when I think that although I may enter into corporate worship with the correct heart and mind I may be failing every other day to demonstrate God-honoring worship by the way I interact with those around me. The 2 or 3 times I may get to lead or participate in corporate worship fails or falls short in light of 5 or 6 other 24 hour days that I may be sowing death with my words.
I love this quote I found… it says,
What takes us years to build with our talent can be destroyed overnight by our character; and, what takes time and effort to build with our worship team efforts can be destroyed by the power of the tongue.
Let’s face it… we have great responsibility. As believers, especially in today’s time, we are under the microscope of the world. Everything we do has an audience and if we can’t speak out of the grace and love we have been given then what does that say about the value we place in that precious gift we are so freely given?
Our talents, abilities, and more importantly our words and actions carry great weight! The way we interact with and influence people daily can bring great blessing to the heart of God and our ministries or they can bring great destruction, deceit, and death.
An example of worship being halted by the work of the tongue is Miriam. If you are unfamiliar with the story it comes from Exodus. Chapter 15 verses 20-21 says,
Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women followed her, with tambourines and dancing. Miriam sang to them: “Sing to the LORD, for he is highly exalted.”
Miriam was a worship leader and a person of influence that was used by God. However, we see that later on she allowed her language of worship to be replaced with divisive language. Numbers 12 records this,
Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite. “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” And the Lord heard this. (Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.) At once the Lord said to Moses, Aaron and Miriam, “Come out to the tent of meeting, all three of you.” So the three of them went out. Then the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud; he stood at the entrance to the tent and summoned Aaron and Miriam. When the two of them stepped forward, he said, “Listen to my words: “When there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions, I speak to them in dreams. But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” The anger of the Lord burned against them, and he left them. When the cloud lifted from above the tent, Miriam’s skin was leprous—it became as white as snow. Aaron turned toward her and saw that she had a defiling skin disease, and he said to Moses, “Please, my lord, I ask you not to hold against us the sin we have so foolishly committed. Do not let her be like a stillborn infant coming from its mother’s womb with its flesh half eaten away.” So Moses cried out to the Lord, “Please, God, heal her!” The Lord replied to Moses, “If her father had spit in her face, would she not have been in disgrace for seven days? Confine her outside the camp for seven days; after that she can be brought back.” So Miriam was confined outside the camp for seven days, and the people did not move on till she was brought back.
Miriam’s name literally means “bitterness” or “rebellion.” She recorded in the Bible as being a co-leader of one of the most powerful and influential worship services in the history of Israel. But we soon find her being used by the enemy to bring accusation against God’s leader, bring division among the people, and cause the progress of an entire nation to be halted in the middle of a desert.
Don’t allow yourself or the words you speak to be the halter within your congregation or body.
So… how do we do this? How do we build the body with our words?
- Choose to speak out of grace.
Colossians 4:6 says,
Let your conversation be always full of grace.
Did your parents ever tell you to “think twice and speak once?” Or, “If you have nothing nice to say then don’t say anything at all?” Both of these statements speak such truth! The often quoted verse out of James 1:19 immediately comes to mind here,
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.
But really it isn’t always that simple… but if we are to be constantly conforming ourselves to the image of Christ then we must speak out of grace because it is through Christ that grace has been given. If we’ve ever been given a second chance (which we all have through Christ) then we owe it to others to be understanding and gracious in our interactions and words.
- Choose to bring life through the things that you say.
Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me… they can destroy my mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. I am guilty of living and speaking towards others with that mentality.
If our mouths and words convey messages about us and our hearts then what kind of message are we conveying each and every day as we speak and interact with others?
In Matthew 12:34 Jesus speaks to the religious people of his day in this way,
You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
That may seem pretty harsh but the truth there can rattle you if you pay attention to it. Too often we equate our speech or make excuses for our detrimental interactions with others to our upbringing or personality but this makes it out to be more than that… it is a heart issue. Just because you aren’t a “people person” doesn’t excuse your heart for being the ammunition to a dangerous weapon used to cut others down.
In the battle of words choose to speak life to others.
Deuteronomy 30:19 says,
I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live.
Romans 14:19 says,
So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 says,
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
- Choose to be accountable for your tongue.
No more excuses. It really is that easy. Find an accountability partner and be serious in reforming your language in the same way that you have transformed and reformed your mind and heart.
Jesus has done His part in us and now the ball is in our court. Choose to speak in a way that glorifies the Father. Create times of worship in your interactions with others by speaking life and grace.No longer do we have to be careful about who we say what to… because ALL we say is going to be said out of worship to the Father.
This week’s blog was hard because I was writing to an audience of one… me. If you have taken anything at all from this rambling please commit yourself alongside me to speaking life to others in the name of Jesus.
Psalm 100:4 says,
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
Let’s not allow ourselves to be like Miriam. I will end with a reminder out of Deuteronomy 28:47-48. It says,
Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joy and gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things, therefore you shall serve your enemies, whom the LORD will send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in need of all things.