“Life isn’t about just talking, it’s about thinking too.” ? Marie Symeou
We’re talking about the tongue and our words this week in a series that we’re calling Small Things Big Difference. We looked at James 3: 3-12 which gives perhaps the most accurate, biting description of the tongue in all of Scripture and perhaps all of literature.
In these verses, James offers us a few revealing insights about what we say. We have a tendency when we look at these verses in James and cherry pick one or two things that apply to us most directly. We read the third chapter of James and immediately begin beating ourselves up: “Man, my tongue is attempting a hostile takeover of the rest of me.” Let me state for the record that I am no expert since sometimes the things that are on the tip of my tongue become a slip of the tongue. But I would like to share a few small steps/actions you can use to limit the potential harshness of our words.
The tongue has great power. And words matter. A lot. We instinctively know this. Look at history. Much of it has been shaped by words, for good or ill. Consider the Revolutionary War. It was the word of James Otis around 1761 of “no taxation without representation” that moved people to action. There are many other examples. God purposely designed the tongue to have power. James is not telling us to keep our mouth shut at all times, rather he’s telling us that it is a rare and mature person who knows how to control his or her tongue and use it for good. So rather than say nothing, find the wisdom to know when to speak, when not to speak, and what to say.
We need to get to the heart of the matter. We don’t have a tongue problem, we have a heart problem. Jesus says in Luke 6:45: “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” A problem controlling your words is not simply a personality flaw or a product of your environment or your culture. It’s an issue of the heart. When we say something we shouldn’t say, we can use the excuse, “I don’t know where that came from.” Actually, we do. It came from the heart.
Jesus came to give you a new heart. Ezekiel 36:26 says, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” When God is sitting on the throne of our hearts we start to reflect His grace. In our relationships with other people, words used wisely and well can heal hurts, unravel misunderstandings, point to truth, express love and affection, show respect, reflect repentance, offer forgiveness, bring joy and laughter, give comfort, help us remember what’s important in life, and inspire us to become not just smarter, but wiser human beings.
1. Finish this statement: “Sticks and stones may break bones, but….” Do you think that the statement is really true?
2. Have you been hurt or offended by someone’s words? Have you ever hurt or offended someone else with your words?
3. Do you think our integrity and character is tied to how we speak at all? Explain.
4. What are some “real world” ways we can reveal our love for God in our conversations with people? How would your talk change if you actually tamed your tongue?
5. What is the first small step you can take in taming the tongue? Ask God to help you in that one area this week.