Yesterday, there was an invite-only luncheon with my departmental VP. It’s the kind of thing he does so he can hear what his subordinates’ subordinates have on their mind. It’s a great idea. There was a problem for me: my mouth. In the days and weeks since the invite went out, I had seen my frustration with certain things rising and my patience with those things diminishing rapidly. To make matters worse, I’m a selectively social person. I do not do well in groups of people with whom I have not chosen to associate. So a luncheon with the departmental Big Boss™ did not sound like the business, it sounded like an opportunity to contract a terminal case of hoof-in-mouth.
This verse applies in spades. My mouth has been a constant source of aggravation for me in the past few days and weeks. Sometimes, my mouth does a great job staying shut. Lately, I’ve been wondering how difficult it would be to have a padlock installed on it, just for safe measure. David, in this verse, has some empathy as well as a better solution.
David asks God to set a guard … over [his] mouth and to keep watch over the door of [his] lips. My mouth also needs a guard. I can handle the hygienic side of things — brush, floss, all that jazz — but I need God to post a guard over my mouth with regard to the words that come out of it. Compared to some of the words that proceed out of peoples’ mouths, halitosis is so distant a second as a concern that it might as well be running a different race. James compares the tongue — i.e. the words I say — to a spark that sets a forest aflame. Words have power and anyone who says otherwise does not know how to use words properly (or they’ve been hurt by words and they’re trying to assuage their pain). George Martin — he’s not good enough a writer, in my opinion, to warrant the double middle initials that harken back to Tolkien — wrote that “words are wind.” While much of what we say on a daily basis may be of no more consequence than a breeze, wind is also a major component of tornadoes and hurricanes. In point of fact, it is the wind of a hurricane that picks up drinking straws and impales trees with them; it is the wind of a tornado that tears a house from its foundations and drops it several miles away. With as much respect as I can muster for Martin, wind is only sometimes inconsequential.
Why does David ask God to watch his mouth? I mean, the phrase I heard growing up implied that I should watch my mouth. Couple of really great reasons. One, my tongue is sometimes exceptionally difficult to control. James commented that a person who could bridle their tongue was able to be self-controlled in just about everything else. Control of our words and deliberate use of them to build up others on the regular is a mark of spiritual maturity and self-control that few possess. Two, I do not always know what impact my words will have. While I may mean something innocuous, perhaps even complimentary the person hearing may not understand what I say as I intend it. I do not know what is going on in the mind of every person with whom I converse and all that background is vitally important to understanding how I will be understood.
With those two things in mind (there are more), it makes perfect sense to invite God to be the Guard over my mouth and the Watchman of my lips. He is able to control anything and He knows all the background details that impact how I will be understood. He is the only One truly able to control the impact — to mitigate or augment — my words may have.
Jesus, the Word made flesh, please keep a watch over my words. May they be used by You to encourage people and to build Your kingdom. May the fire of words from me be used by You to warm those who are chilled. May the rudder of my tongue be turned by Your hands to steer the ship of my life into safe harbor in Heaven. Thank You.