What trouble our mouths can get us in to. The damage that the words that come out of them can cause…
Words of criticism, of rejection, of questioning – enough to hurt and crush people, to make them turn around and leave, feel worthless, decide it’s not worth doing or saying anything. One word in the wrong place or at the wrong time can have a cataclysmic effect. So much pain caused by our thoughtless words. And it’s not always what is said, but how it is said…
Sadly, the church is guilty of this too often. For some reason, we feel we have a moral high ground. Individually and corporately we feel we have the right to say things that are so hurtful, because we feel God had given us the right. When actually what God has done is asked us to love – not destroy. Clearly this has long been a problem for the church, as James was addressing it so long ago, but we have not learnt. Why do we feel the need to cause so much pain, when we should be sharing love?
I have to look at my part in that, and so does each one of us. Am I too quick to say what is better left unsaid?
But our mouths are only saying what is in our heart, so perhaps the problem starts there. It’s ok saying, ‘be careful what you say’, but if we weren’t thinking it in the first place, we wouldn’t be tempted to say it. Why are these thoughts even happening in my heart?
That is something for each of us to contemplate before God. Why do I need to be right? Why do I need to say that? Why do I want to be boss, the law-maker? Why do I need to keep others in their place? Who gave me that right? What makes me feel so bad that I want others to feel bad too?
These are scary questions, but ones we need to face if we are ever even going to begin to tame our tongue – and the broken hearts that cause the problems.
Of course, there is another side to our mouths. What beautiful, encouraging, helpful, and building-up things we can also say. We can use our speech to do good – that should be our focus.
So perhaps, before we speak, we can think – is this what God would like to hear me say? Is it going to build or destroy – both God’s work and people’s lives? Am I being helpful, encouraging, supportive – or cruel, hurtful and destructive? Would I like this to be said to me?
Our voice is powerful – we need to be careful whether we harness that power for good, or for harm.
Forgive me Lord
the time I have said
when I have cause pain,
by the things I have said.
Forgive me for even
thinking those things.
Heal me Lord,
fill me with your love,
that I speak
and feel from that,
not my place of pain.
Heal those I have hurt
by lashing out,
may my words
not drive them from you.
Help me always
James 3:1-12 (CEV)
3 My friends, we should not all try to become teachers. In fact, teachers will be judged more strictly than others. 2 All of us do many wrong things. But if you can control your tongue, you are mature and able to control your whole body.
3 By putting a bit into the mouth of a horse, we can turn the horse in different directions. 4 It takes strong winds to move a large sailing ship, but the captain uses only a small rudder to make it go in any direction. 5 Our tongues are small too, and yet they brag about big things.
It takes only a spark to start a forest fire! 6 The tongue is like a spark. It is an evil power that dirties the rest of the body and sets a person’s entire life on fire with flames that come from hell itself. 7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and sea creatures can be tamed and have been tamed. 8 But our tongues get out of control. They are restless and evil, and always spreading deadly poison.
9-10 My dear friends, with our tongues we speak both praises and curses. We praise our Lord and Father, and we curse people who were created to be like God, and this isn’t right. 11 Can clean water and dirty water both flow from the same spring? 12 Can a fig tree produce olives or a grapevine produce figs? Does fresh water come from a well full of salt water?