Mouth issues

Yesterday I had the privilege of preaching James 3:1-12 at my church. Yesterday I also faced the dread of preaching James 3:-12 at my church. Why the dread? Because this passage of Scripture addresses the power of the tongue, i.e. of the words that we use, and just how destructive they can be. As someone whose words have gotten him into hot water time and time again, I felt like I was speaking into a mirror the entire time, hearing words that I desperately needed to hear but so badly wanted to avoid.

Take a minute to recall some contentious conversations you may have recently had. Did you get angry and lose your temper, resulting in harsh words and a louder than healthy volume? Or are you the master of the art of sarcasm, cutting into others with your cruel wit and venom? How about gossip? Have you spent a lot of time recently criticizing others, knocking their worth and value down a few pegs? I could go on, but I think that you get the idea.

We ALL struggle with the words that we say, just some of us more than others. And think of the damage that words can inflict: Hurt or even ruined relationships; reduced trust that others have in you; skewing someone's self-esteem; even driving others to harm themselves. And as a parent, I shudder to think of how my careless words have led my own children to believe that such language was okay.

In James 3, there are several examples of just how devastating our words can be:
  • They are capable of leading us in directions we don't want to go (3:3-5)
  • They are like a raging fire, burning anyone in their path (3:6)
  • They are like an untameable beast that runs out of control (3:7-8)
  • And harmful words can function as a paradox, completely contradicting the words of hope, grace, and love that we should be using. (3:9-12)
Word are powerful and once they are spoken they cannot be unsaid. Careless words also have consequences that we often are not prepared to deal with. Many a man and woman have ruined relationships, alienated friends and family, and annihilated trust because of the poisonous venom of the tongue.

Words should matter to us because they most certainly matter to God. He gave us life and breath, the ability to communicate with our words, and He did not intend that we misuse the gifts that He has given to us. As one who has struggled for many years to tame my own tongue, allow me to leave you with what I believe will be a few suggestions that all of us can benefit from when it comes to taming the power of the tongue:
  1. Speak only words that heal, not hurt (Proverbs 12:18)
  2. Think before you speak (Ephesians 4:29)
  3. Hold yourself to the same standard of speech that you set for others (Proverbs 15:1)
  4. Speak only the words that you would say if Jesus was physically in the room with you (Psalm 19:14)
Our words are powerful and what we say matters. Guard your tongues and the words that you say. Filter your speech so that what you say draws people to Jesus instead of pushing them away from Him. 

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