Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Is My Tongue a Fire?

During our Sunday worship time, we discussed the beginning of James.  Yesterday, I decided to listen to James on my new iPad.  Over and over again as James came back to different ideas related to the tongue, I just kept saying ouch, ouch, ouch.  James does a lot of contrasting between the way we should be using our mouths for good, and how many of us abuse the use of this part of our body.  

He starts off by telling us to ask God for Wisdom when we pray (James 1:5).  Although we don't actually have to speak out loud to pray we usually think of using speech when we think about prayer.  I think it was no accident that James started out all of the difficult changes that we need to make, especially regarding the use of our tongues, with a command to pray for wisdom.  So often when we see a problem in our life that needs changing, we don't know where to start.  James tells us that where we need to start is by asking God for Wisdom and that He will give it without reproach.  I love the fact that James mentions prayer.  Usually when we realize that there is an aspect of our life that needs changing, we are pretty down on ourselves.  It is a comfort to me, that when I come to God, He isn't looking down on me but is a loving father with open arms ready to give me what I need most.

Here are some other ways James says we should use our tongues for good:

  • Visiting the orphans and widows.  We should be using our mouths to encourage those who are downtrodden and need uplifting (James 1:27).
  • Sowing peace.  Our words should be used to sooth others, not to rile them up (James 4:8).
  • Showing our integrity (James 5:12).
  • Singing praises to him (James 5:13).
  • Confessing our sins to others (James 5:16).
  • Helping to turn our straying siblings back to him (James 5:19-20).  

Throughout the book, he contrasts these good uses of the tongue with many negatives. It struck me very hard.  Something about listening to James tell me that my anger does not achieve God's righteousness hit me in a way that reading it never had (James 1:20).  I knew before that my anger was an issue in my life that I should probably deal with at some point, but hearing how far it puts me from God's righteous plan for my life really brought it home for me.  James further twisted the knife in my heart when he told me that "If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is useless."  Although I have never liked the word religious, I didn't let this stop the point from sinking in.  All I am trying to accomplish in my Christian walk is useless if I don't bridle my tongue.  Ouch.

Chapter three had even more difficult thoughts.  My son was recently burned, so the idea of a tongue setting fire hit close to home.  Fires can burn and scar those that I love and care about.  I have witnessed the continued pain and discomfort that my son's scars cause him.  However the scars caused by the fire of the tongue go so much deeper than the ones on my sons back.  Even those tiny careless words that I spout off in anger can lead to a huge forest fire that destroys everything in its path.  James ends chapter three by saying that one mouth should never utter both blessings and curses for others.  When I grumble and complain about those around me and then sing "oh how I love Jesus," this is just what I am doing.

I certainly don't have the answers in this post about how I can go about changing what needs to be changed, but I think that one solution is in these contrasts.  The more we use our tongue how God means us to, the less we will find ourselves abusing others by misusing our words.  If you have any thoughts on what has worked for you in taming your tongue, we would love to hear them.  

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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