You have a serpent tongue. Today, “no one is righteous,” “there is no faithfulness in their mouth; their inward part is very wickedness; their throat is an open sepulchre; they flatter with their tongue” (Romans 3:10; Psalm 5:9). “They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent; adders’ poison is under their lips. Selah” (Psalm 140:3). One might ask, Who is “their” or “they?”
Contrary to popular opinion (or the opinion of the self-righteous person), “they” are all human beings on earth. All of us “were once alienated and enemies in our mind by wicked works” (Colossians 1:21; Romans 5:10). Still, because of Jesus Christ, people can be “holy and unblamable and unreprovable in God’s sight” (Colossians 1:22; Romans 5:10).
Now, has the psalmist David’s words become of no effect? “They” appears to no longer apply to all people but a group of wicked people. Do only wicked people have a serpent tongue? “I could not possibly include myself in this ‘they’” the self-righteous person says. “I am redeemed, and there’s no wickedness in my mouth,” the self-righteous person says again.
The world would have us to take pride in our righteousness, although such righteousness is as dirt. “Me, have a serpent tongue? Not I!” the world says. The world says a person is righteous by how good they act, how good they smell, how good they look, how good they talk.
Oh, how the world looks steadily from its own vision, its own eyes. The world wants everyone to see things how it sees them. But the world does not have the best eyesight. For many things are hidden from the world. However, “there is no creature hidden from God’s sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of God to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13). “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, observing the evil and the good” (Proverbs 15:3).
It is far better to see righteousness according to how God sees it, not the world whose vision is limited. Must I not say that the world limits its vision to the near-sightedness of lust, hate, and pride? These “wickednesses” are some sunglasses the world puts on daily to shield its vision from the blinding light and glory of Jesus Christ (Acts 9:1-9, Acts 22:11). That is to say, I shouldn’t judge the righteousness of my mouth by how I see it or how the world sees it.
The world can’t see everything. It’s better to depend on the all-seeing and omniscient God who fairly and appropriately judges all matters according to his supreme grace and justice. So we read that God “knows my down-sitting and mine uprising, God understands my thoughts afar off” and “there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knows it altogether.” (Psalm 139:2, 4). For instance, I might say that I’m hungry, but God knows I’m just craving a hamburger from the nearest fast-food joint. I might say that I’m tired, but God knows that I’m just being lazy. I might even tell myself that I’m trying my best, but God knows that I have more to give.
God knows the full meaning of our words. He knows not only their intent but their motivation, origin, and truth. So though I could claim that I can’t possibly be included with the “snakes” and the wicked-tongued group, God knows the real condition of my heart. What is such a condition? A heart “full of evil and madness” (Ecclesiastes 9:3). The Christian accepts his or her wickedness while the world tries to dress-up and perfume-up its sin.
However, the Christian says only Jesus can “wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin” (Psalm 51:2). The world tries to do its own laundry but lacks the soap necessary to clean its mess. The Christian accepts his or her filth but doesn’t attempt to wash him or herself. No. The Christian lets Jesus do the laundry. Oh, the leisure that is in Jesus Christ our Lord!
To be sure, it is better to rest in the cleansing power of Jesus’s blood! When Christians rest in Jesus’s ability to cleanse their tongues and souls, they don’t break their backs trying to make themselves clean as the world does. They don’t work in vain in the attempt to make their tongues clean. No. They totally depend on the soap (a.k.a. the blood) of Jesus to wash their mouth out. Indeed, Jesus cleanses us today!
Therefore, although we may not want to associate ourselves with the dirty serpents, we should because how else does Jesus cleanse and save us other than that we were once dirty and once lost (Luke 15)?