Bite Your Tongue

Last Sunday my pastor highlighted James 3, specifically verses 1-12. I won’t add them here, because it’s a bit lengthy. I will highlight 6-10 (NLT):

And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.

People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, 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 isn’t right!

My pastor also highlighted a quote that comes from the Talmud, which tells that “the tongue is an instrument so dangerous that it must be kept hidden from view, behind two protective walls (the mouth and teeth) to prevent its misuse.”

Jesus also knew the power of the tongue (Matthew 12:36-37):

And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgement day for every idle word you speak. The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you.

I’m as guilty as anyone of speaking without thinking, of spewing out the gossip of the day against others without taking into consideration how much it could harm those I’m talking about. Nor do I take the time to discover if said gossip is even true (as if it matters in the first place).

I often stay silent when people gossip in front of me. Instead of defending that person, I listen with eager ears, relishing in every juicy detail.

As a writer, it’s even worse, because the words I write are more permanent. I’ve let my fingers fly on Facebook, Twitter and other websites without taking into consideration the harm my words could cause. Sure, I can remove my posts, but by then, my words have already done their damage. A couple of times, I feared that damage was permanent. I’ve been lucky that they haven’t, but repairing those relationships took time that I didn’t have to waste if only I’d remained quiet, or chose better words.

Saying “sorry” later sometimes seems inadequate. As my mom told me once, “If you were sorry, you wouldn’t have done it in the first place.”

That seems like a harsh comment, because we all make mistakes. At the same time, however, I should know better, and I often do know better. I know gossip is wrong; I know I should consider the impact of my words and deeds before I speak or act, yet I continue to not guard my tongue, or my hands.

But there is a remedy in James 4:7-10:

So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears of sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.

Ah, humility. That’s a tough one, because I do like my pride.

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