You may have heard it rhetorically exclaimed, “You kiss your mother with that mouth?!” Were they talking to you? Or maybe this is what you’ve shouted at another. Either way, we know that the things that fly out of our mouths can shock those around us. They are thinking how can a wonderful caring Christian person say such a thing?
Even though our tongue is but a small part of our body, it corrupts the entire body and sets the whole course of our lives. The words you say can spark a fire that can set an entire forest ablaze, or they can bring encouragement that quenches the soul in a peaceful wave. I must admit that I am quite embarrassed to think about myself and my own mouth as I’m writing this. I know that at some point in the near future someone around me will listen as words thoughtlessly tumble out of my mouth, they will be reminded of this blog post and wonder whether I practice what I preach.
Luckily for me, I have a handy weapon called The Bible and under such wisdom and grace I may seek my refuge. You see James (one of my favorite books of the Bible) addresses the issue by telling us that,
“but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” (James 3:8)
My embarrassment continues.
You see, as a woman I’m cursed with recalling the things of the past and relating them to everything around me. I don’t exactly recall all of the terrible, poisonous things I’ve said in a moment of emotion, but I know that there are many times when I did not tame my tongue when I should have. I’ve made a joke that offended someone. I’ve snapped at a family member in a moment of frustration. I’ve hastily given ultimatums. I’ve demanded my way. I’ve made excuses. I’ve been less serious than the situation called for. I have used my words to bully. My words tore someone down, rather than built them up.
My flesh wants to make excuses for these things I’ve said. I want to hide under James 3:8 and tell others, Hey! I can’t control my tongue! No human can! But James does not tell us that our tongue can not be tamed, he merely says that no human being can tame it. Try as I might, on my own I will never be able to tame my own tongue. I may be able to keep thoughts from tumbling out of my mouth, but only when I make a conscience effort to do so. Think of those moments when the kids are fighting, you’re late to an appointment, money is tight, you’ve had a recent argument with a friend or loved one, and the stress just keeps piling on. In those times our emotions take over our flesh, and we speak hastily.
Colossians 4:6 says:
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
James 1:19-20 says:
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.
The next time you feel stressed, anxious, worried, frustrated, or just slightly unable to think before you speak, slow down. Speak grace. Speak truth. Speak love.
I encourage you to read and mediate on James 3:3-12. I’ve posted it below. Prayerfully ask God to tame your tongue so that you may use it to guide yourself and others in a righteous and praiseworthy manner.
Scriptures for Meditation
When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. – James 3:3-6
All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. – James 3:7-8
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. – James 3:9-12