Wagging! (What the Bible Says About Controlling the Tongue)

By Jay Sikes

Have you ever noticed that when you get stressed or frustrated, you tend to run your mouth? Sometimes we call it venting, but that can easily turn to wagging the tongue. Let’s see what the Bible says about controlling the tongue.

Ally wagging her tongue


I love to watch our dog Ally wag her tail, whether it’s just a small thing like a twitch while she is laying there or a full blown wagging.  I would venture to say the word wagging is most commonly used in reference to dogs and their tails.  However, it applies in other ways as well, like shaking a finger at someone, moving or nodding the head, waving a hand, getting along, traveling, or proceeding. However, none of these are the topic of this post.

A Need to Control My Tongue

Recently I have been very stressed, overwhelmed, and have had somewhat of a bad attitude.  I have been allowing things I could not fix or change to wear me down.  I was also allowing all of this to frustrate me, rob me of my energy, and steal my joy.  

As I complained and verbalized all of my frustrations, I actually made my situation worse. The more I talked about things, the more frustrated I became.  I was letting Satan know where and how to attack.  I was full blown wagging my tongue.  Instead, I needed to chill and let it go.  What I couldn’t change or fix, I couldn’t change or fix.  What frustrates or overwhelms me does more so when I complain about it.  Wagging the tongue makes things worse, not better!  Unfortunately, halting the wagging of the tongue is not an easy task.

James Chapter 3 – The Power of the Tongue

“…but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”
James 3:8

Preaching Through James

I was preaching verse by verse through the New Testament Book of James.  James’ epistle was written to challenge his readers to examine their faith in order to verify it as genuine saving faith.  His purpose was to encourage his readers to live consistently with what they had learned in Christ Jesus.  In the process, the Book of James brings forth self-examination and can be very eye opening.  I will say James doesn’t mind stepping on toes through these self-tests.  I’m not so sure James didn’t invent steel toed shoes!

Convictions About Controlling My Tongue

At the height of my wagging, I began my preparation for preaching James 3:1-12.  This message brought to light just where I was and the realization of my tongue wagging.  I did not have a controlled tongue. That was a long week of chewing on my tongue, pun intended!  I realized verbalizing my stress simply enflamed my stress and frustration.  After all, the Word tells us not to do this.

control your tongue and watch your words

I was under such conviction that I felt I had no business preaching these verses to anyone.  In fact, I expressed that to the congregation as I began to preach.  As I closed that morning, I gave the congregation one challenge: pray for me to stop wagging my tongue!  I’m most certain that many of them did, and I reported back the following week expressing gratefulness for their prayers which helped so much.

What a Difference Controlling Your Tongue Can Make

With the prayers of the congregation, my conviction and desire and of course with the help of the Holy Spirit, I made a conscious effort not to worry about what I couldn’t change and to not wag out all the negativity.  I can’t tell you the difference it made!  

At least now, I quickly realize the “wagger” is wagging and literally tell myself, “You’re doing it again! Stop!”  Unfortunately, the battle is ongoing. However, I continue working hard to be self-aware.  It sure makes life easier and better. It reduces frustration, increases energy, and increases joy.  Once again, God’s Word is right on time!

I would like to encourage you to read James 3:1-12 for yourself, slowly and with examination asking the Lord to speak to you.  Many times we read things just to read and leave the majority of the information right there on the page.  The impact of these verses is too life changing to leave on the page.

Insights From James 3

Here are a few items I hope you glean from these scriptures:

  • The tongue is a sign of spiritual maturity.
  • Even though it is just a small part of the body, the tongue has extreme power.
  • The tongue has the ability to be very destructive.
  • The tongue should be used for God’s glory.

Growing up, I always heard the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”  I truly think sticks and stones are safer than misspoken words.  Words have the power to hurt, ruin, and even kill, but they also have the power to encourage, lift up, and bring peace, energy, and joy.  Wow – the power of your words is huge!

We each have a choice to make because we all face frustration and negativity.

peace from controlling the tongue

It is a Choice

We can allow life’s frustrations to bind us up in a bad attitude and enflame that bad attitude with the “wagger” and even rash words, or we can choose to do otherwise.  We can seek the prayers of others, stand on conviction and desire, and of course seek the Lord’s help to make a conscious effort not to worry about what we can’t change and not to wag out all the negativity. I can’t tell you the difference it can make!  

Practical Tips to Keep From “Wagging”

  • Start being aware of the times you are running your mouth. Sometimes there are certain triggers.
  • Determine to stop the negative or harmful talk when you realize you are doing it.
  • Find a Bible study that focuses on controlling the tongue and read it daily.
  • Read Bible verses daily that talk about controlling your tongue.
  • Memorize some of these verses, and quote them throughout the day.
  • Replace harsh words with kind words.
  • Ask Christian leaders or close friends to hold you accountable.
  • Ask people to pray for you as you try to strive to have control of the words that leave your mouth.
  • Pray that the Lord would help guide your mouth to say good things.
  • Realize you are a human being and will mess up at times – give yourself grace.

Consequences of Not Controlling Your Tongue (Story)

I’d like to close this post with a story of an elderly man with serious hearing problems.  He had been hard of hearing for years.  Many times his family urged him to get hearing aids.  Finally, he agreed and went to the doctor. The doctor was very optimistic that the hearing aids could restore the man’s hearing 100%.  So the doctor told him to come back in a month to see how they were working.  

A month later the doctor checked his hearing and said the man’s hearing was indeed 100%, and he asked the man if his family was pleased.  The man replied that he hadn’t told the family, and they think he still can’t hear, so he just sits and listens.  He then stated, “I’ve changed my will three times!”

You see, the “wagger” takes us out of God’s will if we do not work to keep it in place.  I challenge all of us to use the “wagger” to taste and not to spew!  

A Few More Scriptures on Controlling the Tongue

“When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, 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. The tongue also is a fire,…”
James 3: 3-6a

“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in the likeness of God. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sister, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”
James 3:9-12

The Challenge

As I can tell you from experience, controlling the tongue is a very difficult thing to do. I challenge each of you to join me in taking back control of the tongue! We can pray for each other and hold each other accountable. If you have other strategies to help control you tongue, please share with us all.

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Controlling the Tongue Posts

How to Control Your Tongue – 7 Keys

Hit Him Again!

Until next week…

I disclose

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“When I am filled with cares, Your comfort brings me joy.” Psalms 94:19

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  1. I love these posts so much and I think the reason you were the perfect person to share these words, Jay, was because you were convicted and in conviction we find vulnerability and in vulnerability we find connection. I was raised in a very conservative Southern Baptist family where no matter what the preacher said or did or how he acted he was elevated to rock star status in our tiny town. I’m so thankful for your honesty with these posts because they’re relatable in ways that we all need. I too had an awful few days of “wagging” with a situation that I couldn’t control or even fix and it was so hard to “let go and let God.” While I’m still working through parts of it, I’m grateful for this message and to know that these feelings are normal even for someone raised in the church her entire life and for the preacher tasked with leading a flock. It makes me want to give myself (and others) more grace. Big hugs, CoCo

    1. Coco, thank you so much for your kind comment.That ol tongue is a doozy and a battle for sure! So thankful for God’s grace and mercy! Keep up the good fight and I will be praying for your particular situation! God is ALWAYS GOOD, even in our unworthiness! Blessings Coco!

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