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Taming the Tongue

     I don’t like when words – beautiful, wonderful words – are used to hurt and cut and tear down. I don’t like that some people choose to use them in this way; I don’t like that it’s pre-meditated and so powerful. I don’t like when careless words come out before one realizes their impact.

     I don’t like how it’s impossible to change words. Once they’re said, they’re there, bouncing around in people’s minds, haunting them. I don’t like how words are used to change the truth – altering it and distorting it so that we cannot tell the difference. I don’t like how the beauty and purpose of words is tainted by the misuse of language, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

     The book of James addresses the power of words and their effect. He explains the way our tongue, although small, can be the most destructive part of our body:

     “...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. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire” James 3:5-6 (NIV).

     The metaphor of fire is a powerful image. Truly, our words are capable of burning others and leaving scars on their charred hearts. The words we speak are our responsibility and we should train ourselves to be careful with the words that we allow our lips to speak. We must be mindful of even the smallest of statements and the way they can affect others. What’s more, lies also smolder and singe. Giving your tongue the freedom to leak gossip can result in false information spreading like wild fire and compromising someone’s character or reputation. We must be diligent in telling the truth and steering clear of rumors.

     Sometimes, we don’t realize the way we have dishonored others because we are still staying “holy” by worshiping and praying. James talks about the double identity that our tongue tries to play:

     “With our 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. My brothers, this should not be” James 3:9-10 (NIV).

     Ouch. How many times have we joined together with other believers for worship or a Bible study, and then walked away with negative things to say about a sister or brother in Christ? We don’t realize the way our tongue is honoring the Lord one minute and then dishonoring someone that the Lord created. James makes it clear: “My brothers, this should not be.” My sisters, this should not be! Words can be dangerous. They can prevent us from living holy lives as Jesus has called us to live. It is important to remind ourselves that we need God’s help in taming the tongue.

     Before you speak, think: What I am about to say...is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?

     And only open your mouth after you’ve established that whatever comes out will reflect CHRIST and all his perfect characteristics.


     “Lord, please grant me wisdom with my words. Purify my heart, fill it with compassion and grace so that my words can be a reflection of You. Remind me that I should love others just as Yyou have loved me, and that loving others includes loving with my words. Forgive me for the things I have said about the individuals You have created, and give me the strength to say positive things even when it is hard. Keep my words true, help me resist the trap of gossip, and help me consider the consequences of my words before I speak them. Amen.”

Copyright © 2008-2015 Destiny Morrow

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