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taming the tongue

James, the brother of Jesus, wrote a letter (most likely for the Jewish Christians living outside of Palestine) giving advice concerning how to live out our lives for Christ and explaining how faith without works is dead. Have you ever thought when James spoke about works, he was not just referring to serving others but how we even approach anyone we meet? As doers, and not just hearers of God’s Word we are commanded to love others just as God loves us, and one of the biggest ways to make or break showing love to other people is how we speak to them. James shares with us the tiny yet mighty power of the tongue in the passage below, James 3:1-10 states:

3 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2 For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. 3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 4 Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life,[a] and set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.

Let’s take a deeper look at what James has to share. In verse two and on he tells us that although the tongue is very small, it guides our body and sets our entire course in life just as the rudder on a boat guides the whole ship, or as the bits inside of the horse’s mouth direct the horse’s path. The tongue is also described as a small fire that can rapidly spread and cause great destruction and damage. He even makes the point that every living creature can be tamed, but no human who has lived on the earth (except Jesus, who was both human and God) has figured out how to tame the tongue/properly control the words they speak. We choose at times to state blessings over our Father in heaven and curses over people we come across in our daily lives, but this should not be the case. Our words should be used to speak hope, love and life to the best of our ability.

It is considered extremely wise when you slow your thoughts and wait before speaking, or do not even speak about something at all. Proverbs 17 discusses this topic in verses 27-28 when it states:

27 Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. 28 Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.

In some scenarios (not all, but most of the time) the wisest action you can take in a situation is not speaking at all.

We must be cautious of the words we speak towards others and remember that we are ambassadors for Christ representing the kingdom of God. So before you go and complain about something, talk about someone who is not around to defend themselves, or curse and wish bad things on others, take a moment to step back and ask yourself, would I appreciate this if someone spoke like this about or over me? Is this revealing the love God has for this person? Is it even worth the time to speak so negatively about such things when you could use your time and words in a more positive light?

If you feel as though you struggle with the way you use your words to speak to others, or feel like the destruction you have caused by the way you have spoken to others is too great and there is no way redeem yourself, you are wrong. I recommend you pray to God and ask Him to give you strength and power to overcome the unrighteous tongue and repent/turn away from the ways you have been using your mouth to speak darkness instead of light. If you feel like you have hurt someone by saying something to them, I challenge you to apologize and to try to reconcile with that person, even if they were the ones speaking unkindly as well. You’re never too far gone to give an apology or let someone know that you are sorry about how you treated them.

So as you go about your day, ask God for the strength and will power to speak words that lift others up and refrain from tearing others down.

Well, it's crazy to imagine Words from my lips as the arms of compassion Mountains crumble with every syllable Hope can live or die

So speak life, speak life To the deadest, darkest night Speak life, speak life When the sun won't shine and you don't know why Look into the eyes of the brokenhearted Watch 'em come alive as soon as you speak hope You speak love, you speak You speak life

- Speak Life by TobyMac

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