A close-up photo capturing a person's lips gently pressed together, symbolizing the biblical wisdom of holding one's tongue and refraining from speaking unkind or harmful words.

What Does The Bible Say About Holding Your Tongue

The words we speak carry tremendous power, for good or ill. As the book of James tells us, the tongue is a small part of the body, yet it boasts of great things. Like a small rudder that steers a great ship, the tongue directs the course of our lives (James 3:3-6).

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The Bible has much to say about the importance of controlling our tongues and avoiding rash or harmful speech. Key passages emphasize the need to refrain from gossip, slander, lies, angry words, and overall unwholesome talk.

In this comprehensive article, we will explore numerous biblical principles and passages related to holding one’s tongue and speaking with care. We will cover biblical warnings about the dangers of the uncontrolled tongue, along with positive encouragement to use our words in uplifting ways.

Guidance is provided on topics ranging from avoiding gossip to navigating conflict through thoughtful communication.

Biblical Warnings About the Power of the Tongue

The Tongue’s Capacity for Both Good and Evil

The Bible has much to say about the power of speech, for good or evil. On one hand, the tongue has the capacity to speak truth, wisdom, encouragement, and praise to God. Proverbs 15:23 says, “A person finds joy in giving an apt reply–and how good is a timely word!”

Our words can build others up and point them to Christ.

However, the tongue can also be used for evil. James 3:6 warns that “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”

Our words can destroy reputations, relationships, and lives. Scripture urges us to be quick to hear, slow to speak (James 1:19).

Sins of the Tongue

The Bible warns against many sins of the tongue. Gossip spreads hurtful information and ruins reputations (Proverbs 16:28). Slander makes false accusations against others (Leviticus 19:16). Boasting inflates our own egos and accomplishments (Proverbs 27:2).

Coarse joking mocks what is holy (Ephesians 5:4). Grumbling and complaining expresses ingratitude toward God (Philippians 2:14). These are just some examples of ways we can misuse our words and grieve the Lord.

The book of Proverbs has much wisdom about the tongue. Proverbs 21:23 advises, “Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity.” Proverbs 12:18 says, “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

Our speech should build others up, not tear them down.

The Destructive Impact of Harmful Words

The Bible is clear that our words have power–power to destroy or power to edify. Unwholesome talk that tears others down brings destruction. Ephesians 4:29 warns us to “not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Our speech should give grace to those who hear (Ephesians 4:29).

James tells us, “The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark” (James 3:5). Our unwise, hurtful words can set destructive forces in motion. Proverbs 18:21 reminds us that “The tongue has the power of life and death.”

Let us speak words that provide wisdom, encouragement, and life to all who hear us.

Guarding Against Specific Sins of Speech

Avoiding Gossip and Slander

The Bible clearly instructs us to avoid gossip and slander. Proverbs 16:28 states, “A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.” Spreading rumors and false accusations can deeply damage relationships.

Ephesians 4:29 tells us, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

When tempted to speak poorly of others, we must hold our tongues. Psalm 34:13 advises, “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies.” Bring the situation to God in prayer rather than airing another’s dirty laundry.

The website GotQuestions.org notes that admitting our own faults makes us less likely to judge others harshly.

Refraining from Lies and Deceit

Scripture sternly warns against deceitfulness. Colossians 3:9 commands plainly, “Do not lie to each other.” Even “white lies” erode trust. According to Proverbs 6:16-17, “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue…a false witness who pours out lies.”

Rather than misleading others, we must commit to complete honesty. Ephesians 4:25 states, “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor.” Jesus declared in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”

As Christians, our every word should reflect Christ’s character.

Not Letting Anger Rule Our Words

When feeling angry, we can easily lash out and regret our words. James 1:19-20 counsels, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”

Counting to 10 before responding often prevents foolish outbursts.

The website BibleStudyTools.com recommends redirecting anger into prayer and praise to defuse rage. Philippians 4:8 advises, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Filling our minds with righteous thoughts makes room for the Holy Spirit.

Speaking with Care, Honesty, and Love

Being Quick to Listen, Slow to Speak

The Bible encourages us to be quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19). Often times, we are quick to interject our own thoughts and opinions into a conversation before fully hearing the other person out. Proverbs 18:13 warns that it is foolish to answer before listening to the facts.

Being a good listener shows respect, builds trust, and promotes true understanding between people. We should listen patiently and be slow to anger, not interrupting or making assumptions before the other finishes speaking (Proverbs 15:18).

As Christians, we are called to show humility and refrain from boasting, harsh words, and insults (Proverbs 27:2, Ephesians 4:29). It is wise to hold our tongue and remain silent at times, thinking carefully before speaking to avoid unkind, foolish, or exaggerative words (Proverbs 17:28, Ecclesiastes 5:2).

The words we speak carry weight and impact others, sometimes in ways we don’t intend or expect. We must bridle our tongues, speaking with self-control, honesty, and discretion (James 3:2-8).

Letting Our Speech Be Gracious and Upbuilding

The Bible calls us to speak graciously and constructively, in a way that imparts grace and benefits those who hear (Ephesians 4:29). Our conversations should not center around gossip, slander, complaining or bragging, but instead focus on encouraging and building up one another according to the needs at hand (Romans 14:19, 1 Thessalonians 5:11).

We are instructed to speak the truth in love and have patience and compassion for others (Ephesians 4:15, Colossians 3:12-13).

It is important that we bridle our tongues and carefully choose words that heal, comfort, and impart grace to the hearer (Proverbs 12:18, Colossians 4:6). Avoiding harsh, critical, angry, or filthy language, we can aim to speak words that bring life and reflect the new self we have in Christ (Ephesians 4:22-24, 31-32).

Our speech has power, and we must steward that responsibility well by letting our words be gracious, seasoned with salt, ministering to the needs of others (Colossians 4:6, Proverbs 16:24).

Pursuing Peace Through Wise Communication

The Bible frequently encourages pursuing peace, harmony, and unity within the body of Christ and in all our relationships (Romans 14:19, Hebrews 12:14). Much conflict arises from issues in communication – whether refusing to communicate honestly, communicating harshly and reactively, or failing to listen well and understand others.

Wise, gentle, thoughtful communication cultivates peace and mutual understanding, while rash, prideful, angry speech breeds strife and disunity (Proverbs 15:1-2).

As Christians, we are called to graciously speak truth and extend forgiveness, aiming to maintain peace as much as it depends on us (Ephesians 4:25, 32, Romans 12:18). We must guard against unwholesome talk coming out of our mouths, instead allowing only that which is helpful for building others up (Ephesians 4:29).

With the Holy Spirit’s help, we can learn to communicate in a way that defuses anger and promotes harmony (James 1:19-20). The tongue has power to destroy or heal; we must wield it wisely and purposefully to pursue peace.

Taming the Tongue Through the Power of God

Asking God to Set a Guard Over Our Mouths

The Bible teaches us that the tongue is a powerful tool that can be used for good or evil (James 3:5-12). Though we may have good intentions, our words often get away from us. Thankfully, God’s Word gives us guidance on how to tame our tongues.

One key strategy is asking God to set a guard over our mouths (Psalm 141:3). When we invite the Lord to guide our speech, He can work in us to produce self-control.

As believers, we can pray daily for God to keep watch over our lips. We can ask Him to seal our mouths from hasty, foolish, or harmful speech. God may prompt us to pause before responding in difficult conversations.

He can give us discernment to know when silence is better than words (Ecclesiastes 3:7). With His help, we can choose language that builds others up rather than tearing them down (Ephesians 4:29). Though we may stumble at times, God’s Spirit working within can steadily transform our communication.

Allowing the Holy Spirit to Produce Self-Control

Trying to tame the tongue through self-effort is an uphill battle. But the Bible assures us we are not alone in the struggle for self-control. Believers have the Holy Spirit living inside, producing His fruit in our lives (Galatians 5:22-23).

As we follow the Spirit’s leading, He empowers us to exercise restraint over our words.

The Holy Spirit gives us discernment to know when we should refrain from speaking (Proverbs 17:27-28). He prompts us to pause and prayerfully consider our response rather than reacting rashly (James 1:19).

As we walk in step with the Spirit, He will convict us when our words are inappropriate or harmful. Over time, choosing to align our communication with God’s truth allows self-control to take root. Though it is a gradual process, we can be assured the Spirit is at work transforming our tongues.

Following Jesus’ Example of Careful Speech

As followers of Christ, we can look to Jesus’ example of using words intentionally and carefully. Though He could have condemned others like the Pharisees, Jesus chose to speak with grace and truth (John 8:1-11).

He considered His audience and adapted His communication style to best reach them (Matthew 13:34-35). Jesus’ words flowed from a heart of humility, honesty, and compassion.

Like Christ, we can prioritize speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). This involves thoughtful communication that builds others up. It means refraining from lies, insults, gossip, and slander. Before opening our mouths, we can ask ourselves, “Would Jesus’ tone and word choice reflect His heart in this conversation?”

Though we will stumble at times, the Holy Spirit can develop increasing Christlikeness in our speech. As we fix our eyes on Jesus, He transforms us to use our words as He would.


In closing, the Bible has strong words about the tremendous power of the tongue, for both good and evil. While warning sternly against sins of speech like gossip, lies, and hurtful words, Scripture also offers much positive encouragement to harness our words for purposes of love, truth, healing, and peace.

As we yield our tongues to the sanctifying influence of God’s Spirit, He can empower us to use this small but mighty part of ourselves in ways that honor Christ and serve others.

May all who seek biblical wisdom on this topic find both challenge and grace to pursue speech that is true, constructive, gentle, and uplifting. For when our words align with God’s truth and love, they unlock the power to bless rather than curse, to build up rather than tear down, and to heal rather than wound.

Similar Posts