James 3:3-5;9-10 – When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal… 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. 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 (and sisters) this should not be.
When I am reminded of these verses about the tongue, I am reminded of the children's story with a tube of toothpaste. The children are asked to squeeze the toothpaste out of the tube which they usually do with much glee. Then, they are asked to put the toothpaste back into the tube. Well, that is another story! It is easy to squeeze the toothpaste out but impossible to get it back in. Well, that is exactly how it is with our words. It is easy for us to say things but once the words have tumbled out of our mouths, it is impossible to take them back.
I was reminded last week after the church worship service about the sting that words can have. I knew that the words were in jest but they still hurt very much. Why is it that words from our immediate family and words from our church family hurt so much? I suppose it is because of the love we share, and in loving, we have made ourselves vulnerable.
In his letter, James reminds us that we can praise or curse with our tongue. It is the choice we have. In my experience in the church, I have seen a lot of people hurt by words but I have also seen the positive result of what happens when words are used to praise.
Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for the reminder that we can hurt or bless people with our words. Help me, Lord, to bless others with my words. Amen.