Taming the Tongue
“3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 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. 5 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. 6 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. 7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?” - James 3:3-11
Wow, that escalated quickly.
Brian and I were about to purchase our first home. Such a sweet time! God had led us to the perfect house and given us both such a peace about the purchase. I fantasized about the Pinterest projects. The get-togethers. A home we could call our own. We were closing on a Monday. We had already withdrawn the money needed for the sale; our savings account taking a huge hit. On Friday our mortgage broker called me. We discussed details about the closing and she mentioned that we would have to pay the first year of escrow upfront: $7000. The money was due Monday. “You never mentioned that.” “Oh, it’s law for first time homeowners. I didn’t know that until today.”
My knee jerk reaction was not one of kindness. Far from uplifting. I called the situation unprofessional. Not transparent. Borderline irresponsible. Our broker calmly apologized and accepted the blame, but I knew those words hurt her.
In the above passage, James speaks about the strength of the tongue. He calls it a “fire”, “world of evil”, “restless evil” and “deadly poison”. He also states, “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless" (James 1:26). Ouch.
On the contrary, the tongue is also described as a “tree of life” (Proverbs 15:4), “healing” (Proverbs 12:18), “instructive” (Proverbs 31:26) and “choice silver” (Proverbs 10:20). With the same tongue we can choose to slander, gossip, lie and curse or edify, encourage, soothe and confess Jesus is Lord.
Jesus showed us how to be slow to speak and quick to love. On the cross as people mocked him, Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34). With the woman caught in adultery, the people asked Jesus what they should do- stone her (death) or let her free (disregard the Law of Moses). Seemingly a lose-lose situation. Jesus knelt and took his time to respond before suggesting that the one who had committed no sin be the first to throw the stone.
We’ve all said hurtful things. Salvation is through faith in Christ alone, and God forgives your choice words. But the tongue reflects what is going on inside of you. If your heart is filled with the love of Christ, then your tongue should respond appropriately. (“For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks” - Luke 6:45.) I challenge you to pray about those times you used your tongue for bad and ask how you can use it for good. Pray God changes your heart which ultimately impacts your words.
I took an opportunity to fix my past wrong. Last month (4 years after we closed on our house), I wrote our broker and asked her to forgive me. I apologized for quickly responding in a hurtful way. I thanked her for being so responsive to our questions and easy to work with. She hasn’t written back (maybe she changed jobs and never got my email), but I pray our paths cross again so I can apologize and thank her in person. The tongue is a powerful tool!