I went through most of my Christian life not engaging with the practice or the issue of praying in tongues. Then, a few years ago, I entered a new season of my walk with the Lord where I began to pray in tongues. As someone who did not grow up in a charismatic church, this transition caused me to do a lot of research on the issue. I have been asked on a number of occasions to bring clarity to this issue.
But what has been surprising to me is how Christians can be so concerned with tongues (both positively and negatively) and yet so few Christians are concerned with the damaging effects of our words. This is an imbalance that must be corrected in the church.
Whatever interpretive controversy there may be around speaking or praying in tongues, there is no interpretive controversy around what the Bible says about our words. Our words matter. Our words are powerful and can do serious damage. Yet, many Christians, especially on social media, act like verbally destroying people they disagree with is okay. It’s not.
The tongue has the power of life and death,Proverbs 18:21
and those who love it will eat its fruit.
The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body…
…no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?James 3:6, 8-11
Whoever derides their neighbor has no sense, but the one who has understanding holds their tongue.
Those who are kind benefit themselves, but the cruel bring ruin on themselves.Proverbs 11:12, 17
The bottom line is that the Bible has many scripture passages that talk about the damage that can happen from our words. Over and over again in the New Testament we are instructed to “bless and do not curse” and, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil“(Romans 12:14, 17). Yet, how many followers of Jesus are heeding this instruction from the Lord?
Instead, we want to argue about things like the gift of tongues. Isn’t that ironic? We argue about praying in tongues while never stopping to control our own tongues.
If you have confusion about speaking in tongues, you can go to this link where I taught a seminar on the Supernatural Christian Life. On Week 6, I spent the whole session unpacking the gift of tongues. In summary, I believe the gift of tongues shows up in 5 different and distinct ways in the church today. Each of these is for the building up of the church or the believer. None of these expressions of tongues make someone more or less spiritual than anyone else.
Personally, I celebrate the gift of tongues as an incredible gift from the Lord. Praying in tongues has been a powerful tool in my own life. But if we, as the church, want to focus on something even more powerful, let’s learn how to speak words of life that build up and encourage people. Let’s learn to bless those who curse us.