Have you ever said something that you later kicked yourself for saying? Offended someone by the bluntness of your words? Perhaps, you said a bit too much out of pure emotion, rather than rational thinking? Have you gossiped with your best friend, rather than bringing an issue directly to the person you are upset with?
GUILTY! I am a relatively reserved person when it comes to voicing my opinions. I am not generally the person who offends others, as I don’t like confrontation, and would rather shake my head with a smile than face the awkwardness of a disagreement. When someone says something that hurts me or just downright gets me fired up, I generally go to my best friend, giving her an earful of my thoughts. I just never seem to confront the person who actually offended me, and hold on to bitterness instead. However, sometimes I hold on to my emotions for so long that they seem to overflow and exude out of my pores in a waterfall of harsh words when I have had too much. It may take months before I finally explode about something that upset me, and it often comes with a fiery tongue and buckets of tears.
Whether you are a person who speaks too much, too quickly, and offends others easily, or you are a person who finds it easier to gossip than to follow the Matthew 18 principle, the issue comes down to one biblical piece of advice: TAME YOUR TONGUE!!!
(Matthew 18 Principle: bring your issue directly to the person you have it with first. If nothing is resolved, bring someone with you as a witness/mediator. If the issue still is not resolved, bring it to the church.)
I love reading the letters in the Bible, as they are written with such passion and a heartfelt desire to see people walking the true Christian walk. They speak such truth about life– both in the time they were written, and present day. Every time I read a letter, I gain so much understanding about what God is telling me to do. The rules are written clearly and simply about how I must behave as a Christian.
This post was inspired by the book of James. I am specifically focusing on James 3:1-12 pertaining to the danger of the tongue and the importance of taming it. In this section, the author uses metaphors to show the great power that our tongues have over our lives: “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 is makes great boasts.” (James 3:3-5 NIV) As the scripture clearly indicates, the tongue has a lot of power on the direction of our lives. What we say has a great impact on our relationships with others and more importantly, our relationship with God. If we are going around gossiping and speaking maliciously about others, do you think God will be happy with us? Absolutely not. He will love us, of course, but he will not be smiling when hearing our conversations. In my own life, I know that the minute I begin gossiping, it opens the door for much negativity. Sometimes I feel like I just have to say something to my best friend about a co-worker who got on my nerves, or a friend who said something that irritated me. But, it never stops there. My best friend and I can easily talk on the phone for hours, talking about people and everything that upsets us. For a few minutes I feel good– I feel like I am justified to gossip because my best friend understands what I’m saying and agrees. But here’s the real problem– she is not a Christian. Do you think that my gossiping is going to show her I have truly transformed? Is it setting the example of what a true Christian lives like? Am I showing her a reason to turn to Christ if I am just as bitter as she is? NOPE! In hind-sight this is so clear, but in emotional moments, it is incredibly hard to stop.
This leads me into my favorite verse in this section of James: “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: 6) WOW! That is a pretty powerful statement if you ask me. The way I interpret this into my own words is this: What you say can slowly corrupt your entire life and set you on the path of destruction, away from God and toward Hell. Am I saying you can lose your salvation? I don’t know– only God can answer that. BUT by speaking harsh words, gossiping, slandering others and being too blunt, you are not walking on a path of righteousness with God who is pleased with you. Instead, you are showing God that your way is better. You are telling Him that speaking to HIM is less important than speaking to others about your problems. Your words can deeply hurt others as well as create deeply-rooted bitterness in your own heart. There is never a time that I use harsh words without regret. I end up more bitter than before I opened my mouth because I know I have disappointed both God and the person I spoke to. Not to mention, it’s a bummer to know you hurt someone’s feelings. My pastor once said something during his sermon that struck me– your words are a double-edged sword that you can never take back. What truth there is in that! Once you hurt someone, you also feel hurt and bitter, and that person can never forget what you said. Think about when someone has said something really terrible to you. You may have forgiven them and gone on with your life, but seeded deep in your mind is that moment that they hurt you– and you can almost hear them saying the words that cut you.
James 3:10 says, “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.” “Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?” (3:11) We pray to God, blessing Him and asking Him for help in our lives with the same mouth that we use to say hurtful words about others. If we are true followers of Jesus, we need to use our mouths for only good. For praising Him, but also for blessing others. We are going to mess up, as in many other aspects of our Christian lives, but it doesn’t mean we accept failure. We all know how nice it feels to receive a word of encouragement from another person. When we are doubting ourselves, and a person says something really sweet, it almost takes power over the pain we’re feeling. Words have SO MUCH POWER.
As James 3:8 beautifully states, “but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” Three words jump out at me here: NO HUMAN BEING. None of us can tame the tongue, there it is, in plain English. It is one of the challenges that we have to face as Christians. We cannot just accept defeat over this challenge, and must strive to try our very best to tame our tongues as much as humanly possible. And what is not humanly possible… well, leave that to God. Pray about what you can’t do on your own, because through Christ, all is possible.
As for me, I am working very hard on taming my own tongue, as well as my bitterness, jealousy, pride, etc… the list goes on and on. I am looking to God for advice instead of people. Reading the Bible instead of gossiping. This will be a life-long process of success and failure, but I know it is absolutely necessary if I want to establish a stronger relationship with Jesus. So say a kind word to someone today. You might be the one to turn their whole day around. If someone is rude to you, forgive them. Say something to lift their spirits. When your tongue really wants to unleash a fiery wrath on someone, think about what the Bible says. Think of what God’s face might look like when He hears you speak. Think of the path of righteousness that you want to walk on, and where the path of destruction will lead you. Think before you speak– not of the words in your mind, but of the words planted in your heart.
Thanks for reading, God bless.