You’ve smelled it; you’ve had it: dragon’s breath - morning breath. It causes your tulips to wilt and your family to flee as if Godzilla was chasing after them.
Morning breath is often caused by the lack of saliva in your mouth. When you’re awake, your mouth usually produces enough saliva to break down food particles that allow odor-causing bacteria to grow. But when you’re asleep, the saliva production slows down and the bacteria starts growing and munching on compounds, proteins, amino acids, and leftover foods that are stuck in your mouth. This is what produces that bad odor.
The solution? Prevention is key: brushing, flossing and using mouthwash right before bed. And of course, repeating in the morning to wash away all that odor-causing bacteria.
Now the purpose of this article is not to educate you on hygienic practices, nor is it meant to embarrass you in front of your family. But it is a reminder that even our mouths are subject to decay and death – a result of living in this fallen and sinful world.
How often we do forget that we sin in thought, word, and deed. But this is precisely what James reminds us, “But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.” (James 3:8-10)
Our mouth is full of death and decay. What shall we do? As baptized children of God, prevention is key: avoid those things that cause sin to dwell in our mouth, as Luther reminds us, “cursing, swearing, using Satanic arts, lying, deceiving by His name, betraying, slandering, and hurting another person’s reputation.” In addition to this, we use our tongue to build others up: to pray, praise and give thanks to God; to defend our neighbor, speak well of him, and put the best construction on things (Explanation to Second and Eighth Commandments).
And what do we do when our mouths are filled with death? We cleanse them by daily returning to our baptismal waters in confession and absolution. We take into our mouths Christ’s body and blood – given for our redemption, forgiveness, and cleansing. We allow Christ to take away our death and bring us into newness of life.
So the next time you wake up and smell the dreaded stench of morning breath – remember the death that dwells within your body and the sins that flow from your lips and mouth. Then rise, go brush your teeth and rinse it out with mouthwash, and remember how Jesus has washed away your sin and renewed your life by His blood.