With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father,
and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.
Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.
My brothers, this should not be.
It’s been said that the most difficult parts of our lives to come under the Lordship of Jesus are: the right foot that we use to step on the gas pedal, the attitude we carry during athletic competition, and the tongue we use to speak during the week. If we want to live a life of grace, then let God transform the way we talk to and about people. This includes when they are in the room with us and when they are miles away from our voice.
When I was in preschool, my teacher invited both my mother and me to her house. What began as a special visit was instantly transformed into a very awkward moment. Like most children my age, I simply voiced my thought as I proclaimed, “This place is a mess!” My mother could not think of anything to say in the long silence that followed my observation. Even though we have laughed about my comment many times, that day was an undesirable start to a friendship. Fortunately, the three of us are still very close many years after our initial visit.
The real freedom of speech is not the right to say anything we want to say. Freedom of speech is deeper than that: it’s the power to not say cruel things, and the ability to choose a positive, greater purpose in the words and tone we use. In the verses above, James is highlighting the fact that glorious words can come out of our mouth, and then a few hours later, some wretched statements come out of that same mouth. No person can tame their tongue on their own, but with God’s help our words can bring Him glory and encourage others.
1) There is accountability for our words. Check out what Jesus said in Matthew 12:33-36; Jesus doesn’t want us to be careless with our words.
2) God has given our words incredible power to influence lives. Solomon tells us in Proverbs 18:21 that the power of life and death are in the tongue.
3) We need to rely on God everyday for the right words. This is David’s prayer in Psalm 19-God can help us choose the right words to speak.
A Few Things To Avoid:
1) Over-involved comments: The Bible literally tells us to mind our own business, staying out of areas that are not our responsibility (1 Thessalonians 4:11).
2) Serving hands and a wrecking ball mouth: Some people who make the most poisonous comments are sometimes those who serve. True servants have both humble mouths and helpful hands.
3) False flattery: Don’t sweet-talk people or be so intimidated that you can’t be honest (Psalm 12:2).
4) Sneaky private conversations: Some people give themselves special permission to gossip and slander when they are with others. The truth is they are not alone—God hears everything.
1) Before you speak, ask yourself these questions: Is it true? Is this the best way to say it?
2) Take time to think who needs your affirmation- how can you strengthen other people with words?
3) Thank the people who encourage your faith. You can initiate conversations that spread the grace of Jesus.
1) Has someone said something so positive to you that you will never forget it?
2) Why does God give such power to our tongues?
3) How does God help you filter your words in an effective way?
Isaiah 50:4. My words can sustain weary people.
Proverbs 26:28. False flattery is a form of deception.
Proverbs 28:23. In the long run, people will respect our helpful rebukes.
James 3:1-12. Life and death are wrapped up in the tongue.
Father God, I want to thank You for giving me the ability to make a difference in this world with the words I speak. Forgive me for tearing other people down, being judgmental, and missing opportunities to tell people about You. I choose today to devote my words to Your purpose, and I ask Your help in beginning to speak in a new way. I want my words to bring life and lead many to You. I pray this in Your name, Jesus. Amen.
Are you ready for more encouragement? You might also like Conquering Your Obstacles
Excerpt republished with permission from Rooted in Grace by Jesse Bradley c. 2012
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