Romans Lesson 42 - Seasonings for the Tongue
There are no cosmetics for the tongue. In fact, you have never gone on a diet to get your tongue back into shape! Yet it is your tongue that defines you more than anything else. It is your tongue that makes the greatest impact on your life and the lives of others. So set aside the gym for a moment and join Stephen as he brings you speech therapy for the tongue.
Seasonings for the Tongue
I want to begin our study today by asking you a question. . .how beautiful is your tongue?
I imagine you’ve probably never considered it in terms of attractiveness:
More than likely you didn’t stand in front of the mirror this morning and get it to curl just right – you probably didn’t even look at it.
And you probably don’t have an appointment any time soon with a tongue beautician.
For that matter, Avon and Revlon don’t sell cosmetics for the tongue. I was walking through J.C. Penny’s at the mall this past week and was trying to find the men’s section – I ended up wandering around the ladies cosmetics – that section is huge – I never thought I’d make it out. In my wandering, I couldn’t recall seeing anything for the tongue. There are no cosmetics sold for the tongue.
There are no fashion shows featuring the tongue.
In fact, you’ve never gone on a diet to get your tongue back into shape, have you?!
Yet, the truth remains . . . it is your tongue, not your figure, not your wardrobe, not your bank account, not your position or job title that defines you more than anything else. It is your tongue which makes the greatest impact on your life and the lives of others than anything else about you.
The Bible mentions many different kinds of tongues:
A flattering tongue (Psalm 5:9)
A proud tongue (Psalm 12:3)
A lying tongue (Proverbs 6 :17)
A deceitful tongue (Psalm 120:2)
A perverted tongue (Proverbs 10:31)
A wicked tongue (Psalm 10:7)
A soothing tongue (Proverbs 15:4)
A destructive tongue (Proverbs 17:4)
A gossiping tongue (Proverbs 25:23)
It is the tongue which:
-makes or breaks apart a marriage;
-makes a home a pleasant environment or a desert;
-makes friends or lose them;
-strengthens a church or divides it;
-attracts people to Christ or repel them;
-honors God or curses Him.
No wonder Solomon wrote in Proverbs 18:21, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue!”
Thus far in our study of mankind’s sinful communication, we have watched the Divine Physician get out his instruments out and open the mouth of humanity.
In verses 13 and 14 God will diagnose the throat of man, the lips of man, the tongue of man and the mouth of man. None of these diagnoses are flattering . . . but they are all true.
The first inspired diagnosis in verse 13 was that mankind’s throat exposes hidden depravity.
Romans 3:13. Their throat is an open grave.”
Literally, their throat is like a newly opened grave containing within it
the horror of death and decay.
Just as taking the lid off a coffin reveals the stench of death, so opening
the throat reveals the stench of sin and death below in the human heart.
The second diagnosis is equally unflattering. It states that the tongue
produces great deception. 13b “with their tongues they keep
If the throat exposes hidden depravity, then the tongue produces great
deception. The tense of the verb means that the mankind is naturally,
continually deceptive; mankind is consistent and proficient at lying.
Then, thirdly, the Divine Physician reveals that the lips inflict
We read in the last part of verse 13, The poison of asps is under their lips.”
In other words, we each have within our mouths a sack of venom and we strike at one another with venomous words.
Untold heartache . . . untold sorrow . . . unbelievable pain inflicted by our words.
Have you ever heard the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
It’s not true is it?!
I can remember that big dirt hill near my childhood friend’s house – we’d get out there with a bunch of other boys in the afternoon and have dirt clod fights. What magnificent fun that was – beaning each other with dirt clods that would splatter on impact.
You say, that was a foolish thing to do . . . well, grown men do it today with paint balls – it looks more sophisticated and grown up, but the motive is the same – splatter ‘em!
Two Christmases ago, my 3 brothers and our families met at our parents home in Virginia. My two younger brothers had paint ball rifles and pistols – my own sons had brought their rifles down with us – all the cousins had guns and masks. One of my brothers who makes more money that the rest of us combined had all this special equipment – a special air pressure tank - camouflage pants and boots . . . and they went out to a hill beyond my parents front yard. I didn’t have any equipment, but went out to watch the massacre. They insisted that I have my own paint ball pistol and said, “Look, you can stand in the front yard and try to shoot over to the hill at us and help your sons and their cousins team out. They didn’t think I could reach the hill . . . neither did they.
I stood on the front lawn aiming carefully at my two brothers – all the
paint balls came short – but I started aiming high into the air. I can
still remember hearing one of my brother’s yelping and he cried out,
“Owww, you got me on the leg!” That was one of the best Christmases
I ever had.
I personally can’t remember any of the pain from those dirt clod fights.
My brother doesn’t remember the pain from that one paint ball . . . at
least I hope so . . . he’s bigger than I am!
The truth is, sticks and stones may break your bones, but the wounds of
the tongue can last a lot longer. When they hit their target and splatter
all over the soul, it does great harm.
Paul delivers the Divine diagnosis and says, “There is venom in our
The fourth and final observation we glean from this Divine
examination of our mouths is found in verse 14, “Whose mouth is full
of cursing and bitterness.”
That’s another way of saying, fourthly, “the mouth of mankind reveals internal despair.”
The word for cursing, ara, is a word that refers to a person publicly criticizing and defaming another person. It has the worst intentions in mind – it’s only desire is to inflict pain and to discredit the other person about whom they are speaking.
And mankind curses God, attaching His name to expletives or simply using His name out of context.
Profanity is the natural language of someone far from God.
Several years ago I was having lunch with a very wealthy real-estate baron and his wife. They had just begun coming to Colonial and I got the impression that this man wanted some form of prestige and power and was basically asking me out to find out how he could get next to me. Early on however, he let some profanity slip . . . I could tell his wife was mortified . . . he kept talking, trying to get past it. I didn’t say anything, I just kept eating. Later on he said, “Listen, I want to know how to make a significant contribution in your church.” I said, “Listen, what I think you need to do is come to Colonial and let us minister to you – even though you’ve been going to church for years your use of profanity earlier in this meal let’s me know you’ve got some spiritual growing up to do, and your vocabulary will change as you grow in the word.” His wife was over there nodding her head up and down . . . we didn’t hang around for dessert. He never came back.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we are children of the King – don’t use the language of the gutter . . . use the vocabulary of godliness. Stay away from the dirty innuendo, the off color jokes and comments; don’t be shady . . .
It’s interesting to note how our ancestors understood civil and improper language. An old Latin name for a church or cathedral, in medieval Europe was the word “fane.” To say, several hundred years ago that the church cathedral was a beautiful ‘fane’, would have been immediately understood as a compliment. Later, they added the prefix ‘pro’, in front of ‘fane’ to create the word “profane” which literally meant “out in front of the church.” With a little tongue in cheek humor, they thus created a word to refer to the language “outside in front of the church” that you’d never use inside the church. And that kind of language became known as profanity.
Donald Grey Barnhouse, Romans Vol. 1 (Eerdmans Publishing Company; Grand Rapids, MI), 1952, p. 240
The things you would never say inside the church . . . just wait until you get away!
Do you have one vocabulary for church, and an entirely different one for work or in the home or on the campus or on the ball field?
The authenticity of Christianity relates directly to the tongue. James writes in 1:26, “If anyone considers himself religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.”
I have read that in the Welsh Revival of the early 1900’s, many of the coal miners used pony-drawn carts to haul the coal out of the mines. After the revival came and these coal miners experienced redemption and radical changes, they had a problem in the mines. The trouble was that their ponies were no longer able to understand their commands, because their language had so drastically changed.
According to the Apostle Paul’s description of fallen humanity in this paragraph, one of the most distinctive differences between an unbeliever and a believer should be the tongue!
He writes, “The unbeliever’s mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.”
The word for bitterness, “pikria”, refers to the hostility and anger of the human heart.
The truth is, you can’t cover up your heart. Paul has already said in verse 13 that the throat is an open grave – that is, the throat keeps lifting the lid on the coffin of your heart.
If there is bitterness in your heart, it will come out through the mouth. If there is hatred in the heart, it will come out through the mouth.
If there is greed in the heart, it will come out through the mouth.
Jesus Christ said, “The mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.” (Matthew 12:34)
Whatever is treasured in your heart, comes out of your mouth. If you love sports, your gonna talk about sports. You’re gonna talk about N.C. States victory over Maryland last night – you just can’t help it, it’s gonna come out. If a person loves money, you get around them and that’s what they’re gonna talk about. If they love things, they’re gonna talk about their latest acquisition. If they love themselves, they’re gonna talk about themselves.
Paul’s point in Romans 3:14 is that mankind as a whole is bitter and angry and resentful and upset and discontented and spiteful and malicious and revengeful and the mouth reveals the hidden decay of a sinful and selfish heart.
And becoming a Christian doesn’t automatically erase the problem.
One of the great problems in the Corinthian church was their unbridled tongues. Paul was sort of holding his breath as he anticipated visiting them. He writes in 2 Corinthians 12:20. “For I am afraid that when I come . . . there will be strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slanders . . . disturbances . . .”
Who is he writing to . . . hockey fans? The coaching staff at Duke? You wish . . . my friend, he’s writing this to us!
To the church! To people who ought to know better!
And this list of things are all performed by the tongue . . . strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slanders, disturbances.
Ladies and Gentlemen, this is profane speech. But it’s not out in front of the church – it has found its way into the hallways . . . into the business meetings . . . into the Sunday school classes and onto the gymnasium floor.
It’s stuff that doesn’t belong in the mouth of a believer.
Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:29, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
That reminds me of another verse I mentioned in our last discussion – it’s found in Colossians 4:6, where Paul encouraged the church, “Let your speech always be with grace (literally, “gracious”), seasoned as it were, with salt.”
What did he mean?
You need to know that salt was extremely valuable in Paul’s day. It was akin to treasure. It could be used to buy products in the marketplace. In fact, Roman soldiers were often paid in salt. The phrase, “a man’s gotta be worth his salt,” comes out of Paul’s economy.
So you didn’t throw salt around . . . you didn’t treat it lightly.
You would carefully season your food with it – you wouldn’t want to waste any of it.
Perhaps Paul is saying, “Don’t throw your words around carelessly – they are valuable and you don’t want to waste them.”
Furthermore, just as salt makes food more palatable, enhancing the natural flavor of food, so choice words, used appropriately enhance a person’s reputation as being a gracious person.
What are some of those words that season a person’s vocabulary with grace? What are some valuable words?
Let me give you a few - in fact, let’s practice some of them together.
The first one is please. Say that word.
When you say, “please” you are revealing humility and treating that person, not as an object placed on planet earth to serve you, but a person with dignity and honor.
Add to that word, the words, “Thank you.” Say that with me - “Thank you!”
It may have been a long time since some of you husbands said thank your to your wife for the myriad of things she does for you. Amen? When’s the last time you thanked her for dinner . . . “Thank you honey, that was delicious.” If you couldn’t say it was delicious, at least say, “Thank you honey, that was unforgettable . . . that was really unusual.”
I’ve said this before, and a few weeks ago I asked a waitress again to make sure it was still true; I asked her, “What’s the worst day to work in the week?” She said, “Sunday . . .you treated the worst and you get the smallest tips.”
Another set of words that will season life with grace, like salt seasons food, are the words, “I appreciate you.”
Talk about a treasure in words. Like flavoring to food – so these words bring spice and flavor to the heart.
Another sentence that could change your life if you would say these words, “I’m sorry . . . I was wrong.”
What rare words. Look at the person next to you – if you’re married look at your spouse and say those words, “I’m sorry I was wrong.” You say, but I didn’t do anything wrong . . . you will! Go ahead and apologize ahead of time!
I’m sorry, I was wrong!
There are no loopholes in those words. There’s no escape clause. No excuses – just full admission.
The responding words to that are the words, “I forgive you.” Perhaps, no more powerful words in the human language than those.
There might be a marriage represented here that would instantly begin to heal if those words were spoken. “I’m sorry, I was wrong.” “I forgive you.” There might be a relationship between a son and a father, business associates, two believers caught in conflict whose lives would once again enjoy the flavor of life itself if those words were spoken.
How seasoned is your tongue?
Professionals who are supposed to know this kind of statistic say that the average person has around 700 opportunities to speak every day. And the average person will indeed speak some 12,000 sentences, formed out of approximately 50,000 words every day.
50,000 words – the size of a small paper back book. I wonder, at the end of the day, how much of it would be worth writing down. How much would be worth repeating!
The mark of the unbeliever is his mouth, Paul says. His throat, his lips, his tongue. So also, the Bible says, the authenticating characteristic of the believer should in fact be the distinctive, pure, wholesome, edifying use of his tongue.
I want to end with the same question I began our study with . . . it’s a question that others could answer for you, but wouldn’t dare. “How beautiful is your tongue, today?”
There’s a prayer someone wrote out in a book I’ve long forgotten the name of . . . it goes like this; “O Lord, fill my mouth with worthwhile stuff, and then nudge me when I’ve said enough.”
What a great prayer. “O Lord, fill my mouth with worthwhile stuff, and nudge me when I’ve said, enough.”
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