Medieval castles were designed with many defensive structures to protect from enemy invaders. One of the last lines of defense was a latticed gate known as a “portcullis” which would fortify the entrance of many medieval castles. These would help guard the castle during the time of attack. Just as defenses were built into the structure of medieval castles in order to guard them from attack, so we are called as Christians to “set the guard” in the area of our speech.
In Proverbs 13, the Bible reminds us- “He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life: but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction” (v. 3). While a medieval portcullis was used to guard the castle from the enemy without; so the importance of “keeping” (i.e., guarding) our tongue is to protect ourselves and others from the enemy within. The word “keep” literally means “to guard, in a good sense (to protect, maintain…)” (Strongs). The enemy within is our evil heart. The words that we use are simply the overflow of our heart. Consider Matthew 12:34-35- “…for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart, bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure, bringeth forth evil things.” Unless we learn to guard our tongue and carefully choose the words that we say, we will find ourselves on a pathway that is constantly filled with trouble and eventually destruction. When the tongue is not guarded, marriages are destroyed, relationships with children are destroyed, churches are destroyed, friendships are destroyed, and reputations are destroyed. When the “portcullis” is not in working order, our tongue will pave a path of destruction. To speak too much is usually to find trouble. Wisdom teaches us to guard our mouth and set a watch over our words. As one poem so wisely puts it: “Guard well your lips, for none can know, What evils from the tongue may flow; What guilt, what grief may be incurred, By one uncautious, evil word” (Eliot). Let your words encourage life, not destruction.
James 3 warns us about the danger of the unguarded tongue- “Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tame, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (vv. 5-8).
Guard your tongue! As medieval castles were designed with fortifications to guard from the enemy without, let us place fortifications before our tongue to guard from the enemy.