James 3 NIV says,
“Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.
When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.
Likewise, 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 body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”
If anything is convicting for me as a teacher, this is it. This topic hits really close to home because for me, having a tame tongue is something I really struggled with growing up. There is nothing more that I want to do than to yell at the person who cuts me off on the road or insults my family. Harsh words are all around us, and sadly, they sometimes come out of my mouth. Isn’t it true that just the smallest flame can set the whole forest on fire? Isn’t it true that just one word out of our mouths can be remembered forever?
To the girl on my volleyball team who cussed out my dad, the coach, behind his back, to the high school teacher who cornered me and screamed, to the man at the Indiana State Board Licensing Exam Center who laughed at me when he saw my result of a failed test, I forgive you. It pained me to not fight back. It’s hard to forgive and move forward when words hurt so deeply.
These situations taught me something— something very valuable and important. Our tongues can destroy. They can hurt multiple people at once and reflect the true condition of our hearts. Isn’t it beautiful to stay silent when someone expects you to fight back? Isn’t it restoring when we don’t retaliate when every part of us wants to? Our tongues are the hardest to tame, impossible actually. There is only one person who can heal and tame the sinful human tongue— our Savior.
My friend, the tongue is evil and mostly known for destroying. Our words hold more weight than we can ever imagine. As a writer, I have learned that through these glass walls in which I live, every word I say and write holds weight. Our words either bring others to Jesus or cause them to sink. With the same tongue, we lift up the name of Jesus and hurt others in ways we don’t fully understand. Social media has allowed us to sit behind a screen and tear others to shreds on the other side. This has become our world. When has that ever brought life to any situation? When has it ever been okay to treat others like dirt?
There is something valuable about staying silent when you are expected to be enraged. There is a God before us that faces the battle of hurtful words every day, yet He is still patient, forgiving, and just.
Let’s all be like Jesus— receiving harsh words, yet keeping our eyes on our heavenly home. Let’s all be like Jesus— looking to our Father for strength when our hearts are wounded from words. Let’s all be like Jesus— walking on the same streets as sinners like you and I and loving anyway.
I am thankful for the Holy Spirit in me who helps my tongue lead others to Jesus. I am thankful for my Father who claims my identity and reminds me of it daily. I am thankful for my Jesus and how, if the value of an item is decided based off of its price, He paid the highest for me.
Sweet friend, let that sink in.