“No human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.” (James 3:9-12)
Do you receive notices from Netflix, Hulu, Kindle, Goodreads, or others for particular movies or books from time to time? I do. If I have time I like to explore the media. The language of the first page of a book or in the movie trailer is enough to convince me to either forget it or keep looking with interest. Curse words, crude language, or unrestrained anger are a few of the reasons I usually won’t be reading the book or watching the movie. If the words of the characters or author are nasty, then there will most probably be a strong element of immorality in the story because a person’s language reflects their character.
Scripture repeatedly tells us to bless and encourage one another with our words. Our speech is much more than damage control. It either offers kindness, grace, and love or chafes others causing them discomfort, pain, and sometimes even permanent wounds. I had a conversation with my mentor that took place in 2011 that I will never forget; she was so vulnerable, sweet, and honest, in a very comforting way. There is another conversation with a co-worker the following year that I will also never forget. My fellow missionary was accusative, violent, and condemning, without remorse. Words make a difference! A person’s words reflect his character and thus are a key to his whole being. My responses in both situations revealed my heart.
Jesus said, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45) If we pair this verse with the James passage we will conclude that there is both goodness and evil in our hearts. I didn’t deserve the mercy from my mentor and the accusations against me from my co-worker reminded me that I do have evil in my heart which I admitted as I was berated. Now I know how to use criticism and accusations as a jumping off point for sharing the gospel, starting with the sin in my heart and the need for regeneration.
Have you also had conversations or said things that you will always remember? If they were ill-intentioned will you seek the source of your vengeance? How can you use your hurts for the glory of God? How do your memories of the words spoken to you color your life? “A gentle tongue is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 15:4a)