Taming Tempers and Tongues
Read Colossians 3:8-9a (ESV)
But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another....
How does failure to control your temper or your tongue impact your Christian witness?
I am acquainted with a few people that I was surprised to learn are professing Christians. I was surprised because they seem so angry all of the time and they swear like a sailor. It seems these individuals have “no filter,” especially on social media. They engage in gossip and slander, if someone disagrees with them, they cuss them out, and they seem to have no qualms about filthy language and crude jokes. Unfortunately, their inability to control their tempers and watch their mouths, hindered their witness. Because they didn’t act any different from the rest of the world, I couldn’t identify them as Christians. They certainly didn’t seem to be “set apart.”
Now, I don’t mean to sound judgmental. Actually, my interactions with them have been convicting. It led me to ask myself, “Do I have control of my temper and my tongue? And why is it so important that I do?” The truth is, I sometimes still struggle with this. There have been many times that my anger or my speech has not glorified God. But I am committed to continuing to fight this ongoing battle with my flesh because I want to glorify God in everything that I do.
In today’s verses, Paul told the Colossians that they MUST put away the old way that they treated others and the old way that they spoke to and about one another. As Christians, we are called to reflect God to the world. But if we are using our tempers and our tongues to tear down and degrade one another, we are doing a really poor job. That is the kind of behavior we engaged in before we were believers. That is the old self. But in Christ, we have been made new! We should take off that old behavior and put it away.
Scripture has a lot to say about controlling our tempers and our tongues. In James 3, Jesus’ brother wrote of the tongue being so small and yet it is able to set everything on fire. He said animals can be tamed but that humans can not seem to tame their own tongues and sadly, with their tongues wickedness and evil is brought into the world. Even worse, we who profess Christ, still misuse our tongues. “With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not be so” (James 3:9-10).
As far as anger, Jesus got right to the heart of the matter: “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire” (Matthew 5:21-22). While the Law focused on the physical destructiveness of human life due to murder, Jesus took it further from human actions to human hearts. When we are angry with someone, we often desire to hurt or destroy them. We want to physically hit them or sling an insult that cuts to the heart or slander them to destroy their reputation, etc. When we are angry with someone, we want to see them pay. But Jesus says this is not the way. When we are angry with someone, it is a sin and we are liable to the same punishment that a murder owes. Instead, Jesus said that we need to be reconciled to our brothers and sisters in Christ as quickly as possible (Matthew 5:24-25). We shouldn’t let anger fester and issues between us go unaddressed because anger destroys people and relationships.
Friends, the Bible has a lot more to say about our tempers and our tongues. But I will summarize it with this: anger and hurtful, careless, or deceitful speech is foolish and sinful. If we are new creations in Christ, we should be mindful of our tempter and our tongues. We aren’t who we used to be. So put the old behavior away and ask God to help you control Your temper and Your tongue.
God, I confess that even as a Christian, my anger or my harsh words betray my witness. I want to glorify You in thought, word, and deed. But I fail so often. Please forgive me. By the power of Your Holy Spirit, help me to put away my anger and to only use words that bring You glory. Amen.
~ Pastor Nat Crawford
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