Most of us would never kick a puppy. Or strike a child. Or abuse an elderly person. Sadly, however, we possess the ability to hurt and harm in other ways, sometimes thoughtlessly, other times deliberately.
The apostle James described it this way: “If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man” (James 3:2).
James either struggled with his tongue or lived with someone who did.
“Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. . .” he says.
We gossip in the name of “sharing.”
We complain in the name of “venting.”
We criticize in the name of “rebuking.”
We speak sarcastically in the name of “humor.”
We walk through our days, marriages, and lives gathering bits of ammunition until one day, usually when our intended target least expects it, we pull the trigger. Like buckshot, our destructive words puncture dozens of tiny holes that cause the lifeblood of our relationships to drain away.
Some days we are the hunter, and other days we are the prey.
“. . . no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (v. 8).
Critical words steal ambition.
Angry words build relational walls.
Careless words wound tender spirits.
Manipulative words plant guilt instead of grace.
Unspoken words say more than a hundred audible ones.
Worst of all, we speak with a divided tongue, revealing to all who will listen what’s really in our hearts (Mat. 12:34).
“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing” (v. 9-10).
My brothers (and sisters), this should not be.
What if, for one day, then one week, then perhaps one lifetime, we commit to ask three questions before a word leaves our mouths:
1. Is it true?
2. Is it kind?
3. Is it necessary?
What if we wielded our verbal sword with arms of love, using our words to vanquish discouragement, doubt, and defeat? What if we raised the standard of grace and the guns of mercy in the name of kindness, kinship, and Christ? What if we jumped into the fray of social chaos and spoke the truth in love while sacrificially serving those whom we most want to reach?
What if we used our words to heal instead of hurt?
“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.
Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness” (Jas. 3:17-18).
Will you join me in using our words for God’s glory instead of his shame?