The Double-Guarding of Our Mouths

Set a guard over my mouth, Lord;
    keep watch over the door of my lips.
Do not let my heart be drawn to what is evil
    so that I take part in wicked deeds
along with those who are evildoers;
    do not let me eat their delicacies. (Psalm 141:3-4)

The psalmist asks God to place a guard over his mouth. On the one hand, this guard is to watch over what may come out of the mouth: words that can be either good or vile. The Apostle James once described the tongues as “a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body” (James 3:6). Elsewhere he writes, “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless” (1:26). We need a guard over our mouths so that our words might not set a destructive fire but instead might bring a soothing balm and instructive guidance to others.

One the other hand, this guard over our mouths also protects us from what might come into us. When the psalmist later writes, “do not let me eat their delicacies,” he is not writing about physical food but something else. He describes the wicked deeds and the ways of evildoers as something sweet and attractive that could overcome him. Feeding on them would lead to change on the inside so that his being might be corrupted by savoring what is wrong. This is similar to Jesus’ words:

The things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. (Matthew 15:18-19)

In a sense, then, we need a guard over our mouths spiritually so that our hearts might not be corrupted by what we take in and savor in our souls.

Lord, search through me in regard to this double-guarding of my mouth. First, reveal to me any way that my words need to be not only filtered but refined. May my words spoken reflect You and Your truth. Second, reveal to me any way that what I take in and savor in my heart must be purified or refined. “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).

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