Beware These 11 Common Sins of the Tongue

User’s Guide to Sunday, Feb. 27

Bible study is one way of sharing the Good News through speech.
Bible study is one way of sharing the Good News through speech. (photo: Photo by Jacob Bentzinger / Unsplash)

Sunday, Feb. 27, is the Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time. Sirach 27:4-7; Psalm 92:2-3, 13-14, 15-16; 1 Corinthians 15:54-58; Luke 6:39-45.

The first reading today reminds us that our speech discloses our character:

When a sieve is shaken, the husks appear;
so do one’s faults when one speaks.
Praise no one before he speaks,
for it is then that people are tested
(Sirach 27:4-7).

What we say reveals a great deal about us — more than we imagine. Speech is among our greatest gifts, yet self-mastery in speech is among the rarest. Some of the most common sins we commit are related to speech: gossip, idle chatter, lies, exaggeration, harsh attack and uncharitable remarks. With a gift capable of bringing such good, we can surely cause great harm!

Perhaps today we can reflect on Scripture’s teachings on sins of speech. Scripture speaks artistically of the sinful. Here are some common sins of the tongue:

The Lying Tongue: speaking falsehoods with the intention of misleading others

- The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy (Proverbs 12:22).

- A false witness will not go unpunished, and one who utters lies will not escape (Proverbs 19:5).

The Backbiting Tongue: talking about others behind their backs, injuring their reputations through detraction

- A man’s tongue can be his downfall. Be not called a detractor; use not your tongue for calumny (Sirach 5:13-16).

- Never repeat gossip, and you will not be reviled. … Let anything you hear die within you … (Sirach 19:5).

The Indiscreet Tongue: spreading confidential, unnecessary or hurtful information about others

- He that goes about as a tale-bearer reveals secrets; therefore, keep no company with such a one (Proverbs 20:19).

- A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much (Proverbs 20:19).

- Thou shalt not go up and down as a tale-bearer among thy people (Leviticus 19:16).

The Flattering Tongue: exaggerating the good qualities of others in order to ingratiate ourselves to them

- May the Lord silence all flattering lips and every boastful tongue (Psalm 12:4).

- Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses (Proverbs 27:6).

The Proud Tongue: speaking boastfully or in an overly certain way

- May the Lord silence all flattering lips and every boastful tongue, Those who say, “By our tongues we will prevail; when our lips speak, who can lord it over us?” (Psalm 12:4-5).

- The prudent man does not make a show of his knowledge, but fools broadcast their foolishness (Proverbs 12:23).

The Overused Tongue: saying too much, which usually ushers in sin by its excess

- A fool’s voice [comes] along with a multitude of words (Ecclesiastes 5:2).

- When words are many, sin is inevitable, but he who restrains his lips is wise (Proverbs 10:19).

The Rash Tongue: speaking before one should, often without having all the information

- Be not rash with your mouth, and let not your heart be hasty to utter anything before God (Ecclesiastes 5:1).

- Be swift to hear, but slow to answer. If you have the knowledge, answer your neighbor; if not, put your hand over your mouth (Sirach 5:13).

The Quarrelsome Tongue: speaking in an overly opinionated way, attacking others personally, and/or provoking unnecessary division

- Fools’ words get them into constant quarrels; they are asking for a beating (Proverbs 18:6).

- A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions (Proverbs 18:2).

The Cursing Tongue: wishing harm upon others, often that they be damned

- He loved to pronounce a curse — may it come back on him. He found no pleasure in blessing — may it be far from him (Psalm 109:17).

- Whoever curses his father or mother, his lamp will be extinguished in deepest darkness (Proverbs 20:20).

The Piercing Tongue: speaking unnecessarily harshly or severely

- The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil (Proverbs 15:28).

- Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing (Proverbs 12:18).

The Silent Tongue: failing to speak up when we ought to warn people of sin and announce the truth of Jesus Christ.

- Proclaim the message; persist in it, in season and out of season; rebuke, correct and encourage with great patience and teaching (2 Timothy 4:2). 

- Israel’s watchmen are blind; they are all ignorant; they are all dumb dogs; they cannot bark (Isaiah 56:10).

Well, James did say, “Anyone who is never at fault in what he says is perfect.” Indeed, if anyone masters his tongue, he is a spiritual superman! “Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3).