Is there really such a thing as “thoughtless words?”

Can we be blamed for what we think? How about for what we say?

Thoughts and our tongue: Is there such a thing as “thoughtless words?”

People sometimes say that no one can control their own thoughts, but James says: “The tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles!” James 3:5. All this comes from our thoughts. Sinful lusts are actively working in our body, and they stir up thoughts.

We have power over our thoughts and our tongue

If we are not awake, our tongue can start wagging. By our thoughts it can come into direct connection with sin in the flesh and thus can become a fire that defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. (James 3:6)

Where do we take up this battle in order to overcome this hell? Why, it must begin in the thought life. We cannot avoid temptations, but we can steer our thoughts away from the lusts in the flesh. Impossible, you say. No, it is possible, for Jesus says, “Why do you reason about these things in your hearts?” Mark 2:8. This shows that we can be blamed for entertaining evil thoughts. It is from these that the tongue receives its nourishment and from them that evil thoughts get sent out in every direction so that great forests are set ablaze. All those who listen will experience their corrupting influence.

There are many who speak thoughtless words that pierce like the sword. (Proverbs 12:18) “The heart of fools proclaims foolishness.” Proverbs 12:23.

The mind weighs thoughts as to whether they are good or evil, whether they originate from a pure or a corrupt spring. Everything that comes from a good source can be given safe passage, since it will have a good effect. The evil on the other hand must be restrained. This is where the cross can help. We have received power to say “No” to what is evil and “Yes” to what is good; consequently, we have also received power over our thoughts and our tongue. We do not have to think or speak evil. This applies to areas over which we have received revelation and where we are able to discern between good and evil. This is where we need to be vigilant.

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Labor to overcome!

James writes: “But no man can tame the tongue … Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing.” However, he also says in the same context, “My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening?” James 3:8-11. This implies that evil thoughts can be denied passage into our mind. Here you and I must stand as watchmen. We can restrain the tongue from speaking evil thoughts.

Speaking evil and writing evil amount to the same thing since in either case a person has allowed evil to pass through his mind, the mind that was supposed to be serving the law of God. (Romans 7:25) All this needs to be judged and put to death, and if we have caused others harm by it, we must ask them for forgiveness. In such cases there are rich opportunities to exercise ourselves in godly fear. Think that we can labor in such a way that we are victorious in thought, word, and deed. And if you should stumble in the course of this training, do not lose courage; just persevere.

This article was first published in Norwegian in BCC’s periodical 
“Skjulte Skatter” (“Hidden Treasures”) in April 1933, under the title “Tungen og tanken” (“The tongue and our thoughts”)
© Copyright Stiftelsen Skjulte Skatters Forlag

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®, unless otherwise specified. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.