You can hardly turn on the television or check your social media these days without hearing about some famous mucky-muck who said something vulgar, inappropriate, or just incredibly stupid. We respond with shock as though we have never had a slip of the tongue or hurt someone’s feelings with our words. Yet the truth of the matter is that we all occasionally blurt out something we shouldn’t have. Thank God we’re not in the spotlight!
I have always had a quick tongue. There was a day when I took some pride in saying that. Someone could toss an insult my way and I would fire out three in response. It was my defense mechanism. It was how I kept myself from being hurt by other people’s words. But I was really just like a rattlesnake whose tail had just been stepped upon, lashing out with potent venom without regard to the consequences.
But then I became a Christian and have never said anything vulgar or hurtful…. Ummmm… No.
James says, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless” (James 1:26 ESV). Those are some harsh words! But James is speaking not of the Christian, but of the religious. He understood that no one can control their tongue. “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” (James 3:2 ESV). “…But no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God” (James 3:8-9 ESV).
As I see it, everything started with a word. “God said… and there was.” The heavens and the earth were spoken into being. But man and woman were fashioned in His image. We were carefully crafted to be like Him. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:1-3 ESV). Adam and Eve were not created by a word, they were created by the Word!
Everything was wonderful for Adam and Eve until they heard another spoken word. The serpent spoke to them, twisting words to deceive them. It is fitting, perhaps, that words set the universe in motion and words also set in motion its decay.
Proverbs tell us that “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21 ESV). That has been my experience as well. I have been enlivened and restored by words, and I have been devastated by words. I have used my words to refresh and restore others, and I have used my words to humiliate others.
As we noted earlier, no human being can tame the tongue. So I won’t even begin to hint that it is possible. Taming the tongue means complete control, your tongue submitting to your spirit. But I believe that the more we fill ourselves with Jesus, the Word, and the Word of God, the Bible, the less we will find ourselves backpedaling, apologizing, and searching for ways to undo the damage caused by our words.
The subtitle of this blog is “Musings of a Mindful Disciple.” So I leave you with a final scripture to meditate on and work into your mindset and faith walk. “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak….” (James 1:19 ESV).