Today’s Bible reading is James 3. Like I said a few days ago, James is one of the most applicable books in the Bible. And this chapter is one of those that — if you let it — will “get all up on your business”, showing you that you aren’t all that you think you are. And that’s a good thing because we all stumble in various ways. (James 3:2) All too often, we’re so full of ourselves that we can’t hear the voice of God cautioning us. Encouraging us. Convicting us. Challenging us.
James says that if someone can control what he says, he’s a mature person. He points out that in every other part of nature, something is either one thing or another. A spring flows either sweet or bitter water. (James 3:11) A plant produces only one kind of fruit. (James 3:12) And yet, the tongue can both
Paul adds that believers should only speak edifying words, words that build up others (Ephesians 4:29). Jesus tells us that the basis for how well we speak to other believers is the condition of our hearts. And the condition of our hearts depends on our relationship with God.
A good person produces good out of the good stored up in his heart. An evil person produces evil out of the evil stored up in his heart, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart. Luke 6:45 (CSB)
Now, James, Paul, and Jesus aren’t talking about using what we would call “cuss words”. No, they’re talking about something far more sinister.
It could be cutting words. Wounding words. It could be outright gossip. It could be gossip that masquerades as “sharing prayer requests”. It could be “
They’re talking about any words (and any tone of voice!) that would be hurtful to a person, especially if you’re talking behind their back. It’s speaking the truth, but not speaking
It’s good to know that I’m not the only one who struggles with this paradox. (James 3:2) But that doesn’t excuse it.
I often find myself paraphrasing Paul, that I find myself [saying] what I don’t want and I find myself not [saying] what I want. (Romans 7:18–19)
Paul says that everything we say should be gracious, seasoned with salt (Colossians 4:6) so that we would know how to talk with other people. When you add salt to a dish, a lot of the flavors can emerge. Salt also causes thirst. And as we talk with other people, we should be ready to give people more grace with our words.
How about you? Are you like me in the way that you know you should only build up other people, but yet find yourself not doing it all the time?
Join me in repenting of this sin of the tongue, of not building up others. And let’s lean on the Holy Spirit of God to produce in us a new speech pattern that flows from an ever-freshly redeemed heart.