|Me, in the white dress,|
listening to my 1st grade teacher.
My first grade teacher would always tell us, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything!” These are words to live by, words to remember for sure. However, actually doing it, well if you are anything like me, is easier said than done. Sometimes nasty words just fly out of my mouth and once said they can’t be unsaid. I hate it when I do that.
Before I get too involved in pulling apart this section of scripture, I think we need to remember a few things. James is talking to Jewish Christians. Naturally, the church is beginning to grow and the gospel is being spread. Our author is instructing them to be careful about being teachers. Especially, he is addressing your actions not matching your faith, more specifically your words. James expresses the seriousness of being a teacher of the Word and how our words can shame Jesus or bring His life. Even today, so much damage to Christ’s message can happen when the bearers mutilate it with their words from their mouth.
I think we learn three things from this passage of James.
Our words can be powerful!
Vs. 5 the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches
I like the picture of a ship that James uses!
We went on a cruise and I was amazed on how this giant ship moved across the water. Now the rudder I am sure was huge in comparison to little ole me. But in comparison to the giant cruise ship it is not all that big. The rudder moving just the tiniest of motion to the left or right can change the course of direction for that ship. It can send us exactly to our destination or out in the middle of the ocean if not carefully controlled by the captain of that ship.
I control the direction of my words. I can either direct them to life or death. I can bring hope or destruction. I can say very prideful things or I can keep humble silence. I am the ships captain of my words. I can steer them in the direction I choose. But from the heart the mouth speaks.
A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
I can encourage my children or I can tear them down. I can say words of love to my husband or I can push him away with word of bitterness. I can share Christ with those around me or I can say nothing. I can lift up my brothers and sisters in Christ or I can tear them down. I can say words of love to my enemy or I can say words of hate. I am the captain of my words. Which direction will I go? Will I go towards Christ or in the opposite direction?
Our words can be deadly!
vs. 6 the tongue is a flame of fire
James uses a forest fire to also show how destructive, deadly our words can be. Our words can ignite something so awful and completely devastating that there maybe nothing to repair the damage except through the power of a loving God... healing can come.
There is this area in northern
that I have driven through countless times, that was destroyed by a forest fire. The damage was very extensive. It has taken years for new growth to take
place. Even now, over ten years later, it is
still not the forest it once was. In
fact, mixed in with the beautiful new growth, there are still remnants of the
fire reminding us all of what happened there.
I believe the same is true of our words. We can say things that destroy relationships. There are words that tear marriages a part. Children are forever changed by nasty words from parents. How many bullies have driven teens to suicide by their mean, awful words?
Our lies, our jealousy, our hate, our bitterness, our hurt is like that forest fire. A spark of our tongue can destroy someone’s hope in a moment and then the destruction can last a life time. Even if we apologize, make things right, and allow time for healing there will still be embers left as a reminder to all of the deadly power of our tongue.
Our words can become out of control!
vs. 8 no one can tame the tongue
Lastly, in this portion of scripture James address how difficult it is to tame the tongue. In fact he says no one can. We can tame all sorts of animals; but our un-tamable tongue is “evil and full of deadly poison”.
Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!
Lord help us. No wonder non-Christians call us a bunch of hypocrites if this is how we treat each other and sadly we do. I have been in ministry long enough to see it in action. We are a bunch of imperfect people for sure. But thanks be to God, who does not leave us without help. He knows how hard our words can be; because He knows our hearts.
We are not left without the power of Christ ability to change us from the inside out. But we must allow Him to change us….change our hearts…control our tongue. Yes, we cannot tame our tongue; but, Christ can.
Whew, there is hope!
And with each new day, I can allow Christ to turn my nasty words into words of grace!