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What does double tongued mean in the Bible?

Being double tongued is referenced several times in the Bible, primarily carrying a negative connotation of deception, hypocrisy, and dishonesty. Understanding what it means to be double tongued can provide insight into how to live with integrity and sincerity according to biblical principles.

Definition of Double Tongued

The literal meaning of being “double tongued” is saying one thing to one person or group while saying something different or even opposite to another person or group. It involves speaking with a “forked tongue” or saying contradictory things depending on who the audience is.

This is similar to being two-faced, hypocritical, or deceitful. A double tongued person tailors their speech and message to suit each audience, instead of being consistent and truthful in all situations.

Bible Verses about Being Double Tongued

Several verses in the Bible directly address being double tongued and condemn it as a negative characteristic:

  • 1 Timothy 3:8 – Church leaders should not be “double-tongued.”
  • James 1:8 – A “double minded man” who says one thing and believes another is “unstable in all his ways.”
  • James 3:10 – Out of the same mouth comes blessing and cursing, indicating a divided heart and “forked tongue.”
  • Ecclesiastes 5:4-5 – When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it, showing you are not “double tongued.”
  • Psalm 12:2-3 – Everyone speaks falsely and with a “double heart.” The Lord will silence flattering and boastful tongues.
  • Sirach 5:9 – Do not allow many to deceive you with flattering words, showing themselves as double tongued.
  • Sirach 28:13 – Gossip and slander separate friends, so avoid the “double tongue.”

These verses condemn deception, inconsistent or contradictory speech, flattery, slander, hasty vows, boasting, and gossip. All of these behaviors reflect being double tongued and violate biblical principles of honesty and integrity.

Examples of Double Tongued Behavior

Here are some hypothetical examples of what it means in practice to be double tongued:

  • A politician publicly supporting family values while privately committing adultery
  • A friend complimenting someone’s outfit to their face but criticizing it behind their back
  • A salesperson making unrealistic claims about a product’s benefits to clinch a sale
  • A church member acting devout on Sundays but unethically the rest of the week
  • A spouse apologizing for hurtful words but then repeating the same behavior
  • A student acting respectful to parents but rude to teachers at school

In each case, the outward words and conduct contradict the inward character or actual behavior. This doublespeak is meant to deceive others and project a false image.

Biblical Figures who were Double Tongued

Several prominent figures in the Bible demonstrated instances of being double tongued in their actions:

  • Jacob – Tricked his father Isaac into giving him Esau’s blessing by deception (Genesis 27)
  • Delilah – Betrayed Samson by pretending affection while really seeking to rob him of his strength (Judges 16)
  • Gehazi – Lied to Naaman about Elisha accepting payment after refusing it (2 Kings 5)
  • Ananias and Sapphira – Publicly exaggerated their offering to the church while holding back (Acts 5)
  • Judas – Betrayed Jesus with a kiss after being with him daily (Luke 22)

Their dishonest words and conduct brought harm, revealing divided hearts and morals. However, some like Jacob later repented and changed.

Contrast with Single-Mindedness

Being single-minded and focused solely on God is the antidote to being double tongued. Rather than seeking to please people, the single-minded seek only to please and obey God in all things:

  • Colossians 3:22-24 – Slaves should obey masters sincerely as serving the Lord
  • Matthew 6:24 – No one can serve two masters faithfully
  • James 4:8 – Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you
  • Proverbs 4:25-27 – Let your eyes look directly ahead to keep your path straight

This requires undivided loyalty and avoids the temptation to tailor our conduct or speech for different audiences. Our “yes” should mean “yes” and our “no” mean “no” across all contexts (Matthew 5:37).

How to Avoid Being Double Tongued

The Bible provides guidance for avoiding double tongued behavior and instead cultivating integrity:

  • Guard your tongue and words carefully (Psalm 141:3, James 1:26, Proverbs 21:23)
  • Speak truthfully and directly at all times (Ephesians 4:25, Psalm 15:2)
  • Avoid gossip, slander, and flattery (Proverbs 20:19, Proverbs 26:28, Psalm 12:3)
  • Let your words reflect inner character rather than deceiving (Luke 6:45, Matthew 12:34)
  • Think carefully before making promises and vows (Ecclesiastes 5:2-4)
  • Align outward conduct with inner convictions (Romans 12:9, 1 Timothy 1:5)
  • Fear God rather than people’s opinions (Proverbs 29:25, Galatians 1:10)

With God’s help and discipline, we can speak and act with complete sincerity before God and all people.


Being double tongued involves deception, flattery, and hypocrisy in order to impress different people. It reflects a divided heart and morals. The Bible strongly warns against this conduct, instead commanding complete integrity and single-minded devotion to God. By carefully guarding our tongues, aligning our outward actions with inner convictions, and fearing God more than people, we can avoid being double tongued in word or deed.