The issue of speaking is unavoidable. If God has graced you with vocal chords, you may speak whatever your mind creates. It is as though the mouth shows those around you what is really going on in your mind and heart. The Bible is bereft of passages concerning the tongue and its wild abandon, but I would like to focus on one passage in particular because it has struck my very bone.
“5So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. 7For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. 11Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.” James 3.5-12 ESV
James uses some very strong imagery in his recounting of the power of the tongue, but I venture to agree with his assessment. How many times have you wished you could reach out into the air and retract the words just uttered from your mouth? How many times have you gone to bed thinking about the right words you should have said? The tongue has the power to build and to tear down. It is indeed a small flame that can start a forest fire.
The most striking thing that James writes is how our mind and our tongue contains such a paradox. With our mind and tongue we will bless the Lord, and rightly so, but with that same tongue we will curse our neighbor. It is like a spring, he says, that produces fresh water, then bitter water. Verse 10 is very pointed, it is not to be so.
I have people in my life that when I even think about them, bitter water wants to gush from my mouth. What imagery James uses, our tongues are deadly poison. Not only is speaking curses, or speaking poorly of another person an offense to them, but it is also an offense to God, for He made that person. Get this, in Jeremiah God says “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,” (Jeremiah 1:5). Isn’t that something. Before the prophet was even thought of by his parents God knew him, and sure Jeremiah’s parents had to make love to conceive, but who made Jeremiah in the womb? The text clearly says that God did.
Before you utter curses remember who made you, and who made the other person. For certainly Jesus died for them too, and how will they know of his great love, if you, a Christian, are uttering curses? How can we be the witnesses to the world, if we are cursing those living in the world? Pray blessing upon those you hate, upon those who irritate you, upon the obnoxious, the annoying, the morally degenerate, the absurd, for you may be the only Light they ever see. Let your mouth be a fountain of fresh water pouring forth blessings from the Spring of Christ.