Cheung was upset with his wife for failing to check the directions to the famous restaurant where they hoped to dine. The family had planned to round out their holiday in Japan with a scrumptious meal before catching the flight home. Now they were running late and would have to miss that meal. Frustrated, Cheung criticized his wife for her poor planning.
Later Cheung regretted his words. He had been too harsh, plus he realized that he could have checked the directions himself and he had failed to thank his wife for the other seven days of great planning.
Many of us may identify with Cheung. We are tempted to blow up when angry and to let words fly without control. Oh, how we need to pray as the psalmist did: “Set a guard over my mouth,
But how can we do that? Here’s a helpful tip: Think before you speak. Are your words good and helpful, gracious and kind? (See Eph. 4:29–32.)
Setting a guard over our mouth requires that we keep our mouth shut when we’re irritated and that we seek the Lord’s help to say the right words with the right tone or, perhaps, not speak at all. When it comes to controlling our speech, it’s a lifelong work. Thankfully, God is working in us, giving us “the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (Phil. 2:13
Dear Lord, help us always to think before speaking. Give us the words to say and the wisdom to know when to keep silent.
Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Proverbs 16:24
Scripture has a great deal to say about the power of our words. One of the most familiar New Testament passages is James 3:1–12. According to James, keeping control of our tongue is one of the hardest things we can do. However, before we lose hope in being able to speak good words to one another, consider David’s words in Psalm 141.
Here, tucked in the middle of his other requests, David asks the Lord to set a guard over his mouth (v. 3). He desires to live a life that contrasts with the evildoers around him (v. 5). Spirit-controlled and God-honoring speech is one thing that separates the righteous from evildoers, and it is God who helps us control our speech.