It may be hard for you today to envision changing your habitual judgments of others or the way you size people up when you meet them. I know it was for me when I began working on this area in my life. So let’s start with a preliminary inventory.
During the day do you find yourself being critical of your boss or using sarcastic humor? What is your first response when someone suggests something new? Is it to think about what can go wrong? Do you find yourself complaining about items of little consequence that come along? Do you enjoy listening to people pass on juices pieces of gossip? Are you the one passing in on the news about other people?
Eliminating “the pointing of the finger and malicious talk,” as Isaiah 58:9 puts it, is not an easy task. That’s why I encourage people to fast from words of judgment, criticism, sarcasm, negativity, complaining, or gossip. The Bible tells us that some things happen only by prayer and fasting (Matt. 17:21). But rest assured, as difficult as it may be, change is possible, because we have an intercessor, a great high priest, Christ, standing in the gap for us when we fall short.
The truth is, we can’t change the patterns of our words by the arm of the flesh. Our flesh just doesn’t have what it takes. Bridling the unruly tongue and bringing it under the control of the Spirit is the greatest of all challenges, but the Lord has given us the Holy Spirit for just such a purpose.
This is the fast the prophet Isaiah chose in chapter 58 of his book. It was a fast to break the bonds of wickedness and the bands of the yoke and to set the oppressed free. By God’s grace this is the fast we undertake now—a fast of words.
Ask yourself, “Where do I most need correction with my words—is it with judgments, criticism, sarcasm, negativity, complaining, or gossip; or with family, friends, church members, coworkers, acquaintances, authorities, or any others?” If any words come out of your mouth today that you need to repent of, do so. Ask the Holy Spirit to touch your heart and keep those words out of your mouth tomorrow.