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Joel Osteen — Taming The Tongue


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I want to talk to you today about taming your tongue. One of the main reasons people get stuck in life is because they haven't learned how to control their mouth. They say hurtful things, they put people down, they argue, they gossip. They don't realize their tongue is keeping them from rising higher. God won't promote you if you don't have the character to back it up, and you don't have to be perfect, but we shouldn't be where we were 5 years ago. We should be improving.

Pay attention to what you're saying. Sometimes we've done it so long, we don't realize we've become harsh, condescending, sarcastic, saying things just to please our flesh, and Paul said in Ephesians 4, "Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, only that which is beneficial to the progress of others," and before you say something, you need to ask, is this going to be beneficial to someone? Is it going to build them up, or tear them down? Is this comment going to make my spouse feel better about themselves, or is it just going to feed my ego?

Some people, the only thing that's holding them back from a healthy marriage, from good relationships, from a promotion is their mouth. They're talented, they're skillful, but they pop off. They're sarcastic, they stir up strife. You can't say everything you feel. Your emotions will get you into trouble, and when somebody gets on your nerves, and you feel irritated, annoyed, instead of popping off and saying things that you know you're going to regret later, you need to step back, take a deep breath, pause for 30 seconds. Think about what you're going to say. Don't speak out of your emotions, let your tongue run wild. That's the easy way out. You have to be disciplined, and tame your tongue.

The scripture says, "Be quick to listen, and slow to speak". If you'll pause for a moment, let your emotions calm down, you'll realize some things are better left unsaid. You don't have to win every argument. You don't have to comment on every situation. You don't have to straighten everyone out. You may know they're wrong and you're right, but you have to ask yourself, is this worth starting World War III over? Just bite your tongue and walk away.

I've heard it said the reason we have two ears and one mouth is because we're supposed to listen twice as much as we speak. Do you know how many headaches you could save yourself if you'd just zip it up, not say things you regret later? It's easy in the heat of the moment to make hurtful comments. It takes 10 seconds to say it, but 10 years later, the pain is still being felt. It's like a burn. The fire goes away, but the mark is still there, and we can apologize, say we're sorry, and that's good, that's the right thing to do. But it doesn't remove the scar, doesn't make the pain go away. It's much better to tame your tongue, be slow to speak, not say things out of our emotions. That damages relationships.

You've heard the saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me". That's not a true statement. Words can leave scars. Words can tear people apart. Words can make them feel inferior, insecure, and there are people today not reaching their potential because of hurtful words spoken over them. They heard their parents over and over, "You can't do anything right. You're not smart". Or a spouse, "You're unattractive, you're not talented". Now, those words are limiting their life.

David prayed in Psalms 64, "God, protect me from the sharp tongues the people wield as swords". He referred to hurtful words as swords. Are you building people up with your words? Or are you cutting people up with your words? Are you encouraging them, making them stronger, more confident? Or are you pushing them down, leaving them wounded and scarred?

Many times, we recover from a physical wound much quicker than an emotional wound, and parents, we have a responsibility to speak words of life, faith, encouragement into our children, and yes, we have to correct them, but don't do it angry, in a disrespectful way. Don't say derogatory things to your children that are going to damage their self-image. Even small children, you should never say, "You're a bad boy, you're a bad girl". Don't get that into their spirit. They've been made in the image of God. He breathed his life into them.

They may have bad behavior at times, but your children are good. Correct them in a loving, kind way. Don't start cutting them up early in life with hurtful words. They have enough to overcome already as it is. They have enough people, circumstances coming against them. Let's be parents that speak life into our children, that push them into their destiny, that help release their dreams.

Our children are a gift from God, and with that gift comes a responsibility. God is counting on us to guide them, to nurture them, to help them become who they were created to be. See, taming the tongue starts at home. Husbands, make sure you're treating your wife with respect and honor. If you're saying hurtful, demeaning things, pushing her down, really you're pushing yourself down. You're not just hurting her, you're hurting you. The scripture says your prayers won't be answered if you're not treating your wife right. You won't reach your destiny, you won't accomplish your goals if you're always cutting her up.

I read a study that said one of the main reasons women fall into depression is because they don't have the blessing from their husband. They don't feel valued and appreciated. Now, I know men that treat strangers better than they treat their own spouse. They're kind and gracious to co-workers, but they're sarcastic, condescending to their own family.

And Jesus said in Matthew we will give an account for every idle word that we've spoken. Idle word means negative, condescending, hurtful words, and when we come to the end of life, God is going to ask, "What did you do with that spouse I gave you? Did you help them grow, to become more confident? Did you challenge them to reach to the next level"?

If your spouse is not better than before you met them, you need to step it up a notch. Check up on what you're saying. Are you speaking the blessing? Every time you tell your wife, "You're beautiful," she shines a little bit brighter. Every time you say, "I love you. I'm so glad you're mine", not only is your marriage getting stronger, but she's getting stronger. When you tell your children, "I'm proud of you. You're going to do great things in life", those are not just kind words. Those are seeds that will move them toward their purpose.

And if you had to give an account now for your spouse, your children, your friends, are they better today than they were 5 years ago? Are they stronger, happier, more fulfilled, more successful? If not, you need to make some changes. God gave them to you. He's expecting you to give them back better.

After being married to Victoria going on 30 years now, I would hate to have to tell you that... y'all should clap better than that, me having to put up with her for 30 years. But after being married to her going on 30 years, I would hate to have to tell you she's not as happy as before we met. She's not as confident, not as secure, not as fulfilled. The problem is that wouldn't be her fault, it would be my fault. As her husband, as her covering, it's my responsibility to keep her encouraged, to keep her strong, to keep her fulfilled, to keep her passionate about life.

The scripture says the wife is a reflection of the husband's glory. If your wife is not shining, if you're harsh, condemning, sarcastic, it's not only making her look bad, it's making you look bad, and for some people, when they have to give an account, it'll be a sad day. God will look at their spouse, their children, their friends, and all he'll see is wounds, cut up from sarcasm, cut up from disrespect, cut up from condescending remarks.

Don't let that be you. Use your words to bless people. Use your words to build them up and make them feel better about themselves, and in relationships, we all have conflicts and things that we don't like. I'm not saying you should never have a disagreement, no tension, no stress. I'm saying in the heat of the moment, step back and don't make hurtful comments. That damages relationships.

"Well, Joel, if my spouse wouldn't push my buttons, then I wouldn't say things I know I shouldn't. If my kids would just straighten up, if these co-workers wouldn't get on my nerves, then I wouldn't be so disrespectful". These are tests that we have to pass. The people in your life are never going to be perfect. You have to learn to tame your tongue. That means you don't say everything you feel. You may think it, but you're disciplined enough to zip it up.

Maybe your boss is rude to you, and you're about to let him have it, tell him what you think. Here's the problem. He's the boss, and you're not, and after you speak out of your emotions, after you give him a piece of your mind, you'll be on a high for about 10 minutes, feeling good, giving high fives. Then you'll realize he still has his job, and I don't. It's much better to tame your tongue, then you won't have to live in regrets, thinking, "Oh man, why did I say that? What was I thinking"?

Love makes allowances for people's weaknesses. Love overlooks a wrong that was done to it. You have to rise above these petty things that are pulling you apart. Give people room to have a bad day every once in a while, and if they're rude, don't sink down to that level. Be an eagle and rise above it. Life is too short to live at odds, contentious, arguing about things that don't matter. Some people have to have the last word in every argument. They're so hard-headed, they'll argue for 27 days just to have that final word.

Let it go. You have a destiny to fulfill. You have an assignment to accomplish. Those are distractions trying to pull you off-course. Don't waste your valuable time and energy on something that's not moving you toward your purpose, and if you argue long enough, you'll end up saying something you'll regret later. A 10-minute argument can set a relationship back 10 years. You have to learn to walk away. You're not going to accomplish anything positive in a heated, disrespectful situation.

Let them have the last word, and you keep your peace, you keep your joy. "Well, Joel, that made me look weak". It's just the opposite. The strongest person is the one that humbles themself and steps away. The scripture says you overcome evil with good. You don't overcome disrespect with more disrespect, insults with more insults, shouting with more shouting. The way you do it is by taking the high road, by being the bigger person, by staying respectful.

Proverbs says avoiding a fight is a mark of honor. Doesn't say it's a mark of honor to win the fight, to get the last word, to put the person down. The honorable thing to do is not start the fight in the first place.

In the scripture, when David was a teenager, his father sent him out to take lunch to his brothers. They were in the army, on the frontlines where it was exciting. David was stuck in the shepherds fields, taking care of his father's sheep, and when David's oldest brother, Eliab, saw David, he said in front of everyone, "David, what are you doing here? And with whom have you left these few sheep"?

Eliab was condescending, sarcastic, trying to pick a fight with David, and some people will make it their agenda in life to try to bait you into conflict. They see the favor on your life, they know you're going to do great things. Instead of being happy for you, knowing that God has a destiny for them as well, they'll be jealous and try to draw you into conflict. Don't take that bait.

David felt like telling his brother off. His emotions said, "Let him have it". I'm sure he had his speech all lined up. "Eliab, you think you're hot stuff? You're nothing. God anointed me to be king, you're just jealous. You're going to end up serving me". He could have lit into him, but David understood this principle. He didn't get in there and fight. He didn't curse his brother. He didn't try to have the last word. He kept his mouth closed, turned, and walked away.

No wonder David took the throne. No wonder God entrusted him to do great things. He had the character to back up the anointing on his life, and God can give you a great anointing, he can have a big future in store for you, but if you don't develop your character, you won't step into all that he has, and taming the tongue is a major factor in reaching our destiny. Because our mouth, more than about just anything else, gets us into trouble. You can't use your words as a sword, cutting people up, being disrespectful, sarcastic, and expect to reach the fullness of your destiny, and I wonder how much higher we would go if we would do like David and not have to have the last word, not have to be right, not cause some big scene. Instead, we just keep quietly honoring God, taking the high road, staying respectful. You do that, and God will fight your battles. That's putting yourself in position for promotion.

David faced a lot of opposition in his life. He had plenty of opportunities to get upset, and lose his cool, and tell people off. But he prayed an interesting prayer in Psalm 141. He didn't ask God to defeat his enemies, didn't ask him to remove all of his challenges. He said, "God, take control of what I say. Keep my lips sealed". He was saying, "God, I have a lot of people coming against me, and I know I'm going to be tempted to be rude, to be sarcastic, to be argumentative. So God, I'm asking you in advance, help me to keep it zipped up".

What a great prayer. Every morning when we wake up, "God, help me to not say things that are going to get me into trouble. Help me to not be disrespectful, argumentative, condescending. Lord, help me to keep my lips sealed". This is especially important when we're in stressful times. The traffic is bad, or you're dealing with a difficult co-worker. When you are in these pressured situations, when you know you're going to be tempted to say things that you shouldn't, you need to decide ahead of time that you're going to watch your words carefully. All through the day, like David, "God, help me to keep my lips sealed".

This is what Jesus did. Toward the end of his life, he knew he was coming into one of his most difficult seasons. He knew he would be betrayed, sold for 30 pieces of silver. He knew that he would be arrested, mistreated, and crucified. He said to his disciples in John 14, "I'm not going to be talking with you much anymore because my hour has come".

He was smart enough to realize that he was going to be under incredible pressure, so he let them know, "I've already made up my mind I'm not going to be talking a lot". He was saying, in effect, "I've already decided I'm not going to complain when I'm betrayed. I'm not going to be rude to Judas. I'm not going to argue with the soldiers. I'm not going to be condescending to my accusers. I'm going to be careful with my words," and when you know you're going to be under pressure, a stressful situation at work, before you leave the house, you need to decide, "I am not going to say everything I feel today. I'm going to be extra careful".

When you're going to be discussing a sensitive issue with your spouse, decide ahead of time, "I'm not going to lose my cool. I'm not going to open the door to strife, to arguing". If Jesus, the Son of God, who has all power, said, "I'm not going to be talking much in this pressured situation," how much more should we be careful what we say when we're under pressure?

And it's easy to make excuses. "Well, Joel, I was rude to them because they were rude to me. Well, I said some things I know I shouldn't have, but it's because I was under a lot of stress". No, you have the grace to be where you are and not be rude, not complain, not say hurtful things. You can either feed the flesh and say what you feel, or you can feed your spirit and keep your mouth closed.

The problem is if you keep feeding the flesh and saying everything you want, you won't grow up. You will stay a baby, and the scripture says even though you're an heir, even though God has an incredible inheritance that belongs to you, joy, peace, favor, promotion, abundance, as long as you stay a baby, that inheritance will not be released, and taming the tongue is not just about being disciplined.

It's about growing up. It's about seeing the inheritance that has your name on it released in your life, and I know people, they're 47 years old, but they're still a baby. They haven't learned to control their mouth, and sometimes, it's not big things that keep us from God's best, it's small things. In the big picture, it's a small thing to not argue with a spouse, it's a small thing to not be sarcastic, put people down. God's not asking us to give away our belongings, to move to a difficult place. He's simply asking us to tame our tongues, to use our words to bless and not curse, to use them to build people up and not tear them down.

This is one of the reasons the Israelites didn't make it into the Promised Land. God brought them out of slavery. They were headed to the land flowing with milk and honey, but along the way, when they came under pressure, instead of taming their tongue, they started complaining, criticizing Moses. "Moses, why did you bring us out here in the desert to die"? It was an 11-day journey to the Promised Land, but because of their negative words, they went around the same mountain for 40 years, and never did make it in.

If you can't say something beneficial, that's going to edify, build up, do yourself a favor and zip it up. It's not only affecting the other person, that's keeping you from your destiny, and God will put us in situations to test us. If we're harsh, critical, complaining, condescending, we have to take the test again. We have to go around the same mountain.

Don't do like they did and go around that mountain for the next 40 years. Next time you're tempted to say something that you shouldn't, pause for a moment. Under your breath, "God, help me to control my mouth. Help me to keep my lips sealed". If you'll be slow to speak and ask God to help you, you'll start passing these tests, and as you grow up, God will release more of the inheritance that belongs to you. You will see more of his favor.

But the point here is you can't be critical and make it into your Promised Land. You can't be disrespectful to Moses, to the boss, to your spouse and become all you were created to be. That's why proverbs says, "Life and death are in the power of the tongue". Are you speaking life over your future, or are you speaking death?

One time, Moses' sister, Miriam, didn't like who Moses was about to marry. This young lady didn't meet Miriam's approval. She was an Ethiopian girl, came from a different nationality. Miriam started talking bad about Moses, stirring up trouble, sowing discord, and it's interesting, the scripture says that God heard Miriam being disrespectful. He heard her hurtful, critical words, and all of a sudden, Miriam was stricken with leprosy. Her skin became as white as snow.

Leprosy was contagious, she immediately had to leave the camp, and it will help us to have the right perspective when we remember that God hears what we say. He hears when we bless people and when we curse them. He hears when we encourage, compliment, push them forward, and when we're harsh and disrespectful.

Isaiah said we will eat the fruit of our words. This means if you sow disrespect, you'll reap disrespect. If you sow discord, sarcasm, judgment, you'll reap those things. But when you sow kindness, compliments, encouragement, mercy, then people are going to be good to you.

Our son Jonathan had a birthday last week, and he was away at college, and I sent him a text early that morning, wishing him a happy birthday, and telling him how proud I am of him, and I went to my office to start preparing my message for this weekend, and I went over notes for a couple of hours, but couldn't seem to get any clear direction about what to share on. Usually, something will jump out at me, but nothing seemed inspiring. It felt kind of dull, and then when I came across these notes of taming the tongue, I knew that's what I was supposed to share.

About 10 minutes later, Jonathan sent me a text back and said, "Thanks, dad. You're the best dad in all the world," and said a few more kind things about me, and ended by saying, "I want to be just like you," and it's amazing how those few sentences breathed new life into my spirit. I felt a lifting, a new strength, a new joy. I went from being stuck, "This is hard, nothing is coming," to being excited, passionate. Ideas started flowing, creativity, all sparked from a few kind words.

James said, "The tongue is like a fire. One spark can set a whole forest on fire". One word can start a major problem; one word can start a major blessing. I'm asking you to start some good fires. Ignore people's dreams. Ignite their hopes, ignite their passions.

Your words have the ability to put people on their feet, to breathe new life into their spirit. Be a healer. Be an encourager. Be a lifter, and when you're tempted to say things, and we all are, to be condescending, sarcastic, argumentative, be disciplined enough to zip it up. Put that sword down. Don't go through life cutting people up with hurtful words. Go through life building people up with encouraging words. If you'll do this, I believe and declare because you're taming your tongue, you will enjoy your life more. You will have better relationships, and you will receive your inheritance, and become everything God's created you to be. In Jesus' name.
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