Isn’t it amazing when the word of God stops you dead in your tracks? When my mind is open and my heart is receptive, God’s word shines into areas of my life where no one but He can see. It lays bare my true feelings and attitudes, reminding me where my motives really lie (Hebrews 4:12). And sadly to say, it’s usually not a comfortable experience. When God, through his word, peers into the depths of my soul, I’m ashamed of what he finds there. Selfishness and strife and worry. They’re all there, revealed before a righteous God.
I had one such experience the other day when reading the third chapter of James. This is the part of the Bible that discusses taming the tongue. And I have a tongue problem. Not a tongue that spews vitriol and anger at every moment, but an ungovernable tongue at times. The kind that lacks self-control. Occasionally, I use my words to influence, to insinuate, to tear down. Once the words are out, they are impossible to take back. I can only think of blowing on a dandelion and watching the seeds fly away with the wind. That is the way with words. They float away and affect others in ways I will never know.
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
(Ephesians 4:29 ESV)
I chose to quote the English Standard Version of this verse solely because of the word grace. I would do well if I would afford others a portion of grace through what I say. I’ve noticed the difference. When I choose grace instead of sarcasm or anger, my words are ever so sweet to those who hear them. I’ve seen those words of grace brighten the day of others. And like the dandelion, they can be spread far afield, having a positive effect I may never be aware of.
James was right. No man can tame the tongue, at least apart from God. But when I fill my heart with good (Philippians 4:8) and my mind with God’s wisdom (James 3:17), my words will reflect who is really in control of my life.