I am, by nature, a verbal person. I do not express my anger or happiness through interpretive dance. That would be a scary sight. No, I express it through the most painful words I can inflict or the sweetest words of praise. That is my nature. And shouldn’t I be allowed to express myself “naturally”? No, my friends, I should deny my nature since I have become a new creation. Which essentially means this: When I am ready to put you in your place because you have cut me off while I was on my way to work and made me spill my $4 coffee, I should suck it up, praise God I didn’t get into an accident and move on with my life.
Before we move on any further, take a minute to read James 3: 1 – 12 and you’ll see what I mean.
Why did James feel it was important to mention the use of our words in such detail in this passage? It’s because words have the power to give life or death (Proverbs 18:21). There are several scriptures in the Holy Word that discusses the issues of our tongue. And in our current society where so many young people are committing suicide because of the words and lies that have been spoken over them, it is even more so to realize the power of such a small muscle.
There are four things I believe our tongue can do that has everlasting effects upon our lives and those around us.
1. We curse God with our words.
2. We curse those around us with death blows.
3. We bless the Lord, oh my soul!
4. We speak life-giving truth to others.
Funny how such contrasting things can come out of one vessel. How can this be? It’s because the first two, unfortunately, are effects of living outside of God’s will and being in a sinful nature. Should I blame my inability to hold my tongue on being a product of the world? No! I should rise up and realize I have been called to a greater standard. I am a new creation, the old is gone. Meaning, I do not have a right to speak as I did before I knew Christ because His blood has covered my transgressions.
This does not mean that we don’t slip up. I am not always “slow to speak” as I should be, and I have the regrets to show for it. I spoke harshly to my son because he broke a figurine from my childhood. It was an accident, obviously. But at that moment I put more value on a piece of porcelain than on my sweet son who cried so vehemently because he thought I didn’t love him any more due to my angry words. As I sat there trying to apologize for my words and to reassure him how much I love him, my “natural” reactions did not show it. To this day, the memory of seeing his precious face red and swollen from the tears he cried breaks my heart. I hurt him more with my words because of my sinful nature. See our “natural” reactions aren’t loving at all! Our words only show love to those that are easy to love in moments that are lovable. I just love it when my baby boy makes me something sweet at school that says, “I love my mommy.” Yet the moment that child gets wild, it’s on! I need to step out of my “natural” self and get into God’s Spirit.
And this is where we fall short. We do not recognize that the Holy Spirit is sitting on the edge of His seat waiting to be called on to play in the game. “Pick me! I know what to do! Pick me!!!” And instead we turn away from his pleading as if we didn’t hear him at all and try to handle this one on our own just to fail miserably. The way I should have responded to my child was to make sure he didn’t hurt himself and while I am cleaning up instead of running my mouth and yelling at him, I should have tapped the Holy Spirit in for this round. “God, I am so angry right now. Guard my words so that I do not hurt him. Holy Spirit, fill me.” It might sound supernatural, but those are the kinds of lives we should be living. No more of the “natural”, but more of the “supernatural”. No more blaming my sin on the fact that I live in a sinful world, but clinging to Christ for more grace.
Take a moment to read Colossians 3: 1 – 17
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your[a]life, appears,then you also will appear with him in glory.
5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.[b] 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
We need to rise above this “natural” tendency to say what’s on the tip of our tongues, and live the lives we have been called to. There are a few things that help us in this. A lot of which is explain in the Colossians 3 passage, but also in Matthew 12: 34 – 27.
34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. 35 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36 But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Matthew points out some very thought-provoking ideas. One, whatever is in my heart is what will pour out of my mouth. 2. I am going to have to give an account of “every empty word” I have spoken, including the crude jokes, the hateful words, the gossip I spread at lunch, etc.
So how do I do this? How do I control my tongue? How do I “put to death” this thing that prevents me from truly spreading God’s love? Philippians 4:8 gives some guidance. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” What goes in must come out. If I am filling my life with things of the Lord and His Word, then that is what will be coming out. I will slip because I am human, but I believe that the Lord gives us the strength and the power to turn away from this sinful nature, to live a supernatural life. If He didn’t, then why would He call us to do so?
I leave you with this thought: “A wise man’s heart guides his mouth and his lips promote instruction. Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (Proverbs 16:23 – 24).
I thank you for your instruction, grace and mercy. Thank you that you have called us to live supernatural lives and to rise above the mediocre life of the natural. Help us as we continue to learn your ways. Holy Spirit, fill us with your words of life and love so that we may better love those that you have called us to love. Forgive us of the words that have cursed you, others and ourselves. And help us to forgive ourselves and walk in You.
In Your Holy Name,
Have a great day, y’all!!