Article by Jeremiah Riner
World War II is a fascinating time period chalked full of history, lessons to be learned, and mistakes to be avoided. One of those lessons which has always caught my eye has been the use of propaganda by the United States Office of War Information. Posters, news articles, and radio/film commercials were widely used in an effort to promote morale, generate enthusiasm and often spread information to the general public. Of these endeavors, one particular propaganda poster became quite popular. The poster read, "Loose Lips Sink Ships." This piece of propaganda was created by the War Advertising Counsel and served to remind citizens to guard against careless talk that might undermine American military efforts. Historians have also pointed out that this propaganda poster and similar efforts were used to
somewhat intimidate individuals and soldiers from spreading rumors or gossip which might lead to discouragement, tension among groups, frustrations, or even battle plans being shared with spies within the country.
Similarly, Christians have a responsibility much like these propaganda posters would teach. We too are to guard ourselves against "loose lips" and hearsay. Psalm 34:13 says, "Keep thy tongue from evil and thy lips from speaking guile." We've been given marching orders from our King to put a clamp on our wandering words and unproven information. The reality of the matter is that loose lips don't just sink ships, but they can sink people's lives as well. The harm that can be produced by our tongue is immeasurable. Far too often we underestimate the carnage that can be brought about by our speech. Proverbs 18:21 teach us, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue." What a weighted statement from God's Word that instructs us to know the significance of our choice in words!
We live in a world where instant communication has taken the breaks off our quick-triggered mouths and we've thrown caution to the wind. We sow discord at a rate we've never seen and angry speech is as common as grains of sand. The ships sank due to loose lips during all combined wars America has fought would pale in comparison to the lives sank by lying tongues and deceitful mouths. It's imperative we align our hearts with the Scriptures and allow the truth of God's perfect Word to guide our speech. Our tongue is the rudder of our life's ship and if we're going to stay afloat and steady we must tame this potential weapon and use it only for the glory of God. The Apostle Paul gave clear instructions to the church at Ephesus regarding this in Ephesians 4:29 as he said, "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers."
Another factor to consider in taming the tongue is not only the harm we do to others, but also the harm we do to our own reputation and testimony. Someone has once said (and I agree) that "when we sling mud we all lose ground." Spreading false information, gossiping, and using reckless language is like taking an ax to the base of our own tree. There are those in the Christian community who put a great emphasis on what is known as "speaking in tongues." They associate this with being Spirit-filled and the maturity of the believer. However, as Adrian Rogers once said, "The sign that you are Spirit-filled is not the ability to speak in a language you have never learned, but the ability to control the one tongue you do have." In other words, the real test of our spiritual state is are we taking our tongue captive to Christ Jesus our Lord? One of the great fruits of the Holy Spirit in our lives is the fruit of self-control and this is applied nowhere better than to our words. When the Spirit begins to produce this wonderful fruit in our lives we see its results in our reputation and our testimony for the glory of God.
In a society which is bent on the obsession of "freedom of speech" we must not lose sight of the fact that our words will be held accountable to a holy God. And although we may have liberty to speak as we so choose, we are not at liberty to dictate the consequences of our words. As believers, we must always be aware that our words (whether spoken, written or typed) carry a weight of results and those results are out of our hands. This is why it's of the utmost importance we guard are tongues and be sure that our speech is edifying, truthful, and God-honoring. Any speech other than that will not lead to ships being sunk, but more drastically, the sinking of lives.