“My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things.
See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.” James 3:1-12
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Our words . . . the words we say . . . the words we type . . . the words we repeat (i.e. share) . . . the words we put out there in person or on social media . . . whether they be spoken or written . . . matter. They carry so much weight.
We like to downplay them. They’re just words after all. How much damage can they really do?
Don’t ask me. Go straight to the book of James. He had some pretty strong feelings on how we use our mouths and control our tongues. He says our tongues are “an unruly evil, full of deadly poison”. That’s pretty strong language. And then he goes on to address what seems to have been an issue then and continues to be an issue now. “With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things out not be so.” Let’s be totally honest. This whole passage is incredibly convicting.
I’m good with words. I’m a words person. Words matter a ton to me. But the thing about being good with words is I can also be very dangerous with them. I can weaponize them easily and use them to utterly destroy . Given the right circumstances, I will take you down with my words. I’m not saying that as a point of pride. Quite the opposite. But I think we need to acknowledge the power our words hold. We need to understand that we are called to choose and use our words carefully. Because words, once put out there, can be apologized for, but they cannot be taken back. They cannot be retrieved and put away as if they were never spoken.
“See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.”
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.” Proverbs 18:21
I think we get lost in the simplicity of this scripture from Proverbs. We overcomplicate it and try to make it mean something it doesn’t. We need to take it at face value. Our words can destroy. They can tear down. They can do immense harm. But they can also heal. They can build up. They can encourage and strengthen. So simple. And yet, it is so difficult.
“But no man can tame the tongue.”
The thing is, I can’t tame my own tongue. Without the power and the leading and the enabling of the Holy Spirit, I’ll utterly fail at controlling my tongue. So I have to turn it over to Him. I have to let Him speak to my heart, “Don’t repeat that . . . Don’t share that . . . Don’t say that . . . Don’t think that” but also “Do say this . . . Do share this . . . Do give encouragement . . . “. I have to submit to Him in order to ever have any hope of taming my unruly tongue.
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14
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