The Bible has a lot to say about the human tongue. There can be found verse after verse of biblical wisdom regarding the impact of the tongue, and commands to keep careful control and guard of the tongue. The Bible even goes as far as to say the tongue has the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:22). The things we say can have enormous impacts on those to whom we speak. God tells his people to use our words to build others up, rather than to tear them down.
- 1 What Does the Bible Say About the Tongue (KJV)?
- 2 What Does the Tongue Represent in the Bible?
- 3 What Does the Bible Say About the Tongue Being a Weapon?
- 4 What Does the Bible Say About Taming/Controlling the Tongue?
- 5 Bible Verses About the Tongue and Words
- 6 Sins of the Tongue in the Bible
- 7 Types of Tongues in the Bible
What Does the Bible Say About the Tongue (KJV)?
The tongue is one of the hardest things to control. Scripture tells us that if we haven’t mastered the art of speaking carefully, with wisdom and love, we are not as spiritually mature as we like to think.
The Bible speaks of the tongue as being quite the conundrum. It can be used to praise God, and the very next minute it can be found cursing our brothers and sisters. The tongue reveals the two-sided nature of our hearts. But God calls out our flawed double standard in order to point us to himself. He desires for his children to strive to have a single-minded heart, one that praises him, fights against their sinful desires, and loves others. Taming the tongue, controlling natural impulses to speak evil and hurtful things, is absolutely necessary.
What Does the Tongue Represent in the Bible?
The Tongue Represents a Person’s Speech
The tongue is often used to represent speech itself. As representative of speech, the tongue can be used to speak justly and truthfully, or as a destructive force like that of a weapon of war. Thus, in the Bible, the tongue, or a person’s speech, is often used to illustrate the condition of the heart (Matthew 15:18). The thoughts we allow our minds to dwell on and the things we love, these will often overflow into our words. The way we speak to others and the words we speak with are a good indicator of our spiritual health.
The Tongue as Representing Languages
A common use of the word for tongue is to speak of languages, especially in the New Testament.
The Tongue as Representing People
In this verse, Paul seems to be using the picture of the tongue in two ways. On the first, the “tongue” represents the languages people speak. Together, however, “every knee” and “every tongue” represents or stands in for all people.
What Does the Bible Say About the Tongue Being a Weapon?
The tongue is described as having the power to bring death. Words can be used as spiritual weapons against other people, penetrating the soul and leaving scars that can hinder their ability to believe in a loving God.
In these verses, the tongue is described as having the power to set an entire forest on fire. A small lie can quickly grow into massive lies and coverups. A little gossip can quickly spread far and wide, causing immense pain to those involved. A misquotation of the Bible, twisted ever so slightly to fit an agenda, can set a trajectory for someone to believe false doctrine. The tongue is a weapon that must be wielded carefully.
The tongue can also have the great power of persuasion. Speaking without self-control generally does not produce desired results (Proverbs 15:1). However, speaking gently (using a “soft tongue”) has the power of a weapon used for good, able to subdue the arguments of opponents, causing conviction and ultimately lead to repentance.
What Does the Bible Say About Taming/Controlling the Tongue?
Although pessimistic on the surface (“It’s impossible!”), the rhetorical force is to prove to the readers that, by human strength alone, controlling speech is near to impossible. Someone may be able to speak kind words to others and refrain from gossip or outbursts of anger; but until our words speak of the glories of God, until our idolatrous speech is replaced with worship, our words are imperfect and in need of being redeemed.
The true taming of the tongue—the means by which one may actually see redemptive change in their speech—seems to come later in James’ epistle. In the chapter that follows, James calls his readers to submit to God, resist the devil, draw near to God, cleanse their hands (a picture of removing sin or guilt), and purify their hearts (James 4:7-8). He tells his readers:
Bible Verses About the Tongue and Words
Here “tongue” and “lips” together represent the words which a person speaks. As the author of the Psalm, David exhorts the people of God to keep themselves from speaking evil, deceitful words against others.
Words that are full of wisdom and justice are those that the Lord loves (Psalm 37:28). This kind of speech reveals that God’s law of love is written on a person’s heart, though often those who are wicked will seek to defame such a person (Psalm 37:32).
Sins of the Tongue in the Bible
Here the psalmist equates flattery with a rotting corpse, indicative of the faithlessness and wickedness of those who use flattery.
Lack of Self-Control
Psalm 39:3: “My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned: then spake I with my tongue.”
Only a few verses prior, the psalmist declares his desire to guard his speech, to keep himself from speaking out in sin (Psalm 39:1). But the battle was too great; the psalmist declares that his anger would not allow him to keep silent, and so his tongue led him to sin through the things he said.
Types of Tongues in the Bible
- Lying/Deceitful Tongues (Psalm 5:9; 10:7; 109:2; Proverbs 6:24)
- Flattering Tongues (Psalm 5:9; 12:3)
- Praising Tongues (Psalm 35:28; 51:14; 66:17)
- Wise Tongues (Psalm 37:30; Proverbs 31:26)
- Destructive Tongues (Psalm 52:2; 57:4; Isaiah 5:24)
- Healing Tongues (Proverbs 15:4)
- Powerful Tongues (Proverbs 18:21)