Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Taming the Tongue

How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell. For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water? Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh. James 3:5-12

The old childhood rhyme of "sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me" cannot be further from the truth. I even knew that when as a child I was teased or bullied. Words hurt. Gossip and slander can be abuse. When we chose to allow the poisonous language, gossip and teasing that happens within communities and families, we are choosing for the destruction of what we say we love.

The writer of James was a clear teacher, one who was not afraid to challenge the church membership with their own behavior. He knew how insidious and destructive cruel talk could be. The same people who gathered, smiled and hugged each other could go out to the parking lot and destroy all positive and loving work. Human beings have not changed since these early times and our cruel, untamed tongues are still the reason churches fail and recent converts walk away in droves. We can drive them out with our words, and make the sanctuary an unsafe place for anyone. God is inviting us today to examine ourselves, and to challenge one another to use language that uplifts rather than tears down. Getting our way with insults and gossip is not God's way.

Today I ask God to help me tame my tongue. No matter the challenges that face us today, may we be more ready to use our voices in prayer rather than in criticism and gossip. May we always think of the most vulnerable in our midst before we speak, and may we honor God with our whole being, including our words, tday.

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