Ahhh, the tongue. A wonderful muscle (centimeter for centimeter, the most powerful muscle in the human body): It moves food, tastes it, detects texture, makes funny popping sounds, helps us whistle, rolls, folds, sticks out, touches noses, licks lips, sticks to frozen things, etc... But have you ever considered what trouble our tongues get us into?
From tongue tied, to tongue lashing; tip-of-the-tongue to the cat getting it, it has it's problems. For example, James says:
And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. James 3:6
That's a bit harsh...but James was, after all Jesus' half-brother and witnessed first hand the harm unbridled speech could cause. So, he points out, not only is the tongue a source of spreading destruction (consider the "rumor mill") but also, "set apart among the members of our body" as "that which defiles the entire body." Defile is such a harsh word. I found a couple of things when I looked it up:
1) Defile, as you might expect means to make dirty or unclean. Ok...that makes plenty of sense, I can say some pretty nasty things, and I recall going through my Junior High cussing phase when I punctuated everything with four letter words. I felt pretty nasty...and I wanted to be back then, nasty was "cool." I found something else though:
2) Defile also means, "To violate the chastity of" and "To desecrate." It strikes me that James might just be using a clever play on thoughts there. On the one hand, we Christians are to be "set apart"(consecrated) from the world. And on the other, the tongue is "set apart" from the other members of our body as the portion which can soil a consecrated being.
So, I think to myself, what is it that I say that could be so bad? Well...I won't repeat those things here (this a family blog)...but I wouldn't say them in front of my daughter. And I guess that makes me pretty special doesn't it?
Yeah, right. As I thought about this last week and this, I realized that maybe letting a four letter word slip out in front of her might be better than some of the trash she listens to me spew. I really try, but James is not talking about curse words...that's just first line stuff. He seems to me to be talking about those things which keep my eyes and mind, and the eye's and mind's of those listening to me focused on the "world." The problems, the "dirt" on that guy, the ridiculous decisions being made by the U.S. Gov. right now (do I have to tame my fingers too?), and how come we can't have this or that...?
But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and filled with deadly poison. (But didn't you just say we should tame our tongue...why try if it can't be done?) With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God. (Oh) (James 3:8, 9)
Say what you want to say about me...but say what you might say about my daughter....made in the image of ME...and you can take it up with me.
As James says: "My brethren, these things ought not to be this way!"
So, let's recap:
1) My tongue not only defiles me, but it destroys others, whether with fire or deadly poison.
2) I can't tame it.
3) It makes me worse than a hypocrite, praising God but cursing His creations...which is the same as cursing Him.
"Oh wretched man that I am, who will save me from this body of death?" Romans 7:24
"Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death." Romans 8:1,2
Yes! (Fist pump)
I found something really practical to help me try to do my (small) part in taming my tongue. I learned a long time ago to pray for a watch guard to be set over my lips. ("Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips." Psalms 141:3)
I found this great suggestion...if one guard is good...why not four! My challenge to myself this week is this, to consciously work to tame my tongue by checking what I say against these four criteria:
Watch 1) Is what I am about to say the truth?
Watch 2) Is what I am about to say being said in love...is it loving (and all that comes with loving others)?
Watch 3) Does it need to be said, is it necessary (or am I just saying something because I think it is time to talk)?
Watch 4) Is what I am about to say wise with heavenly versus earthly wisdom?
I can't tell you how many times I have kept my big mouth shut over the past three days!
But! Are Christians just supposed to shut up, sit down, and stay quiet? No, I don't think so. We are set apart for a purpose, our members tools for the Master, and our tongues the most powerful of those tools...
Part 2...coming soon.