Discipline in Speech (Zacharias T. Fomum)

A person of disciplined speech is truly a disciplined person. Most believers are undisciplined in their speech.

The Bible says, 

“The tongue of the righteous is choice silver” (Proverbs 10:20).

“The lips of the righteous feed many” (Proverbs 10:21).

In talking about undisciplined speech, the Bible says, 

“And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is an unrighteous world among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the cycle of nature, 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 humankind, but no human being can tame the tongue - a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the likeness of God” (James 3:6-9).

The one who can control his tongue can control his whole body. The Bible says, 

“If any one makes no mistakes in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body also” (James 3:2). 

The control of the tongue then will reflect something of the discipline of the whole body.

If a person is not able to say the right things, he should keep quiet. He will, by keeping silent, be mistaken for a wise man, even if he is not.

The discipline of the tongue must be goal-directed. It must help the person to accomplish his objective, which is to win Christ and co-operate with Him in the establishment of His Kingdom in the hearts of men.

The disciplined person must ask himself before he says anything:-

  1. Is what l want to say true? All half-truths, exaggerations, understatements, must be eliminated from the speech of all who will go far with God. Exaggerations are lies, and the Bible says that liars are the sons of the wicked one (John 8:44) and that their lot will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur which is the second death (Revelation 21:8). Everything that is not wholly true must not be spoken. Anything about which there is partial doubt must not be spoken. Anything that was not heard from someone should not be said as having been heard. The believer must say that which, when said, will meet the approval of God as true. Will saying it help me to win Christ and win people for His Kingdom?

  2. Is what l want to say necessary? Will it help the person to be more like Christ? Something may be true but that does not qualify it as a thing to be spoken. Each believer must ask himself, “ls it absolutely necessary to say this thing? Will saying it contribute to my winning Christ and my winning the world for Him?” If it is true but will not contribute to my winning Christ and my winning the world for Him or contribute to my winning Him for myself or benefit the person to whom l am talking, then that truth is forbidden. It must not be spoken.

  3. Is the spirit in which it is being said right? Something may be true. It may, when said, help in winning Christ and in winning the world for Him, but if it is said in the wrong spirit - partly to win Christ and partly to advertise self or to expose someone - then it should not be said at all. Anything that does not result from a very pure motive will ultimately neither fully glorify Christ nor build His Kingdom. Any right thing that is not spoken out of love for the Lord and for the world He died to save, is forbidden. It must not be spoken.

  4. Is it being said to the right person? Some things may be true, necessary and could be spoken out of a pure motive for the glory of the Lord, but if spoken to the wrong person, will fail to achieve their goal and, therefore, be wrong. The Lord Jesus told the disciples, “You are clean, but not every one of you.” He said this because Judas was present and he was not clean. He talked further to them and then said, “I am not speaking of you all; I know whom I have chosen; it is that the scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me’” (John 13:18). Jesus spoke about the eleven being clean, but He also ensured that He left no doubt that Judas was not included.

    Another example of a different kind is to give solid spiritual food to babies. The food would then be correct but the audience not ripe for it, and that would result in a waste. It would be wasted food at best. At the worst, the babies may be led off the track completely.

  5. Is it being said at the right time? Something may be right for a person but the time is wrong. He may be too young to receive it and, therefore, not able to handle it. He may have some other problem weighing on his heart and, as such, he cannot receive what is said in the right spirit. In that case, the thing intended should not be said. It is forbidden.

  6. Am l the right person to say it? Something may be right, good and timely for a person to be told, but you may be the wrong person to say it to him. Take, for example, that a brother falls into sin. Who should go and talk to him and help to restore him? Certainly, it cannot just be any believer. The apostle Paul said, Brethren, if a bother is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Look to yourself, lest you too be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1-2). It is not advisable for young believers to attempt to restore a more mature brother who has fallen into sin. Restoration is good and needed, but it is not for them to carry it out because, being young, the cross has not worked out the needed gentleness; and having not faced much temptation themselves, they lack the necessary humility that would enable them to look to themselves so that they are not tempted.

So, if you are not the right person to say it, for you, it is a forbidden affair, even though the person may need it and what is to be said to him is right and the timing right. If you sense his need, pray that the Lord should send the right person to minister to him, and the Lord is always on time!

If the thing and ourselves pass the above tests, then with humility and with boldness, let us speak out. These tests eliminate the following sins of speech:-

  1. Gossip

  2. Harsh answers

  3. Flattery

  4. Lying in all forms

  5. Rash speech

  6. Etc.

Some words from Proverbs on speech are given below. Ponder over them.

  1. “A soft answer turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1).

  2. “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18).

  3. “The mind of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things” (Proverbs 15:28).

  4. “A gentle tongue is a tree of life” (Proverbs 15:4).

  5. “He who forgives an offence seeks love, but he who repeats a matter alienates friends” (Proverbs 17:9).

  6. “Argue your case with your neighbour himself, and do not disclose another’s secret” (Proverbs 25:9).

  7. “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver” (Proverbs 25:11).

  8. “Like a gold ring or an ornament of gold is a wise reprover to a listening ear” (Proverbs 25:12).

  9. “He who sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on a wound” (Proverbs 25:20).

  10. “It is a snare for a man to say rashly, ‘It is holy,’ and to reflect only after making his vows” (Proverbs 20:25).

  11. “He who rebukes a man will afterward find more favour than he who flatters with his tongue” (proverbs 28:23).

  12. “A man who flatters his neighbour spreads a net for his feet” (Proverbs 29:5).

The last thing l want to say is that since a person often reacts to what he hears, control what you hear. Keep away from the company of people whose speech provokes you to say the wrong thing. Do not become a man who does not speak. There are many good things to talk about.

Anyone who keeps silent when he should speak is undisciplined and is equally as bad as the one who speaks when he should not speak. By keeping silent, he places his desires above those of God, quenches the Spirit and hinders God.

Talk about Jesus and His love. Witness to people. Praise and worship the Lord. Encourage and exhort. Minister life. Before you became disciplined, you used your words to minister death. Now, do the opposite. Minister life, health and healing with your words. Speech is not a terrible thing. When the tongue has been disciplined, it becomes a very useful servant that should be fully used for the glory of God. Unless it is used that way, you will not fully satisfy the call of God on your life. The answer to the abuse of speech is not “no speech” but “right speech.”

You may be wondering if disciplining your speech is actually possible. You might have tried and tried but failed to go anywhere. Stop trying. Relax. Turn to the Lord and pray with the Psalmist, saying,

“Set a guard over my mouth. O Lord, keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3). 

The Lord has heard you. He will rush to help you and, as you prepare to co-operate with the Holy Spirit, He will bring you to a mastery of your speech and, how blessed you will then be!

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Set a guard over my mouth. O Lord, keep watch over the door of my lips.

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Ave. Zacharias Tanee Fomum, P.O. Box 385, Bertoua, Cameroon

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