August 26, 2019
At the beginning of a new school year I think I can accurately predict that most of us will get ourselves into trouble at some point this year by something we say. Speaking from a male point of view, I think it is safe to say men probably have a better chance than women of doing so, especially when it comes to our spouses. Men just have a knack for saying something really dumb at just the wrong time. That being said, it is somewhat ironic that men seem to get in trouble so much with what they say, because according to some research, women speak as many as 13,000 words per day more than men. The truth is, whether male or female, our tongues, which can be used for so many positive purposes, can be the greatest threat to our career, our relationships, and our testimony. The Bible speaks of the power of the words we say.
James 3:2-6 says, “We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check. When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 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. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”
In an earlier verse James says that the key to righteous living is controlling the tongue. It is safe to say that during this school year there is a potential that the relationship between a teacher and a student or a parent and a teacher will be significantly damaged by words from one of us that are spoken by a tongue that is not under control. In James 3:8 he says, “No one can tame his tongue.” If we are honest with ourselves, we will admit that this is a true statement, and that we have proven it over and over again in our own lives.
One of my favorite classic movies is “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” starring Jimmy Stewart. This movie was about a citizen politician who was selected to fill a vacancy from his state in the United States Senate and discovered that the way Washington worked was through back room deals, corruption, and influence. (Sounds familiar doesn’t it?) When he became aware of one of these deals that was going down with the senior senator from his own state, he began to speak out about it and got into trouble with the “establishment” very quickly. He was told to stop talking and just go along with the way things have always worked. In the United States Senate, speech making is an art and can be very divisive or very influential. A tool that is available for senators to use to block legislation that they oppose is the filibuster. A filibuster happens when a senator, who is given the floor to speak, continues to speak and won’t relinquish his right to speak for a long period of time. The longest filibuster on record lasted over 24 hours. During the filibuster the senator must continue speaking and cannot leave the chamber or take a break. Of course during the time the speaking is going on no business can take place or legislation voted on. From my point of view I can’t imagine speaking that long or even standing up for that period of time. In the movie Mr. Smith spoke for hours with passion about the lawmaking process and the intent of those who wrote the Constitution. His words that had gotten him into trouble because of his naivety were replaced by words from his heart which ultimately brought out the truth and restored his confidence in the legislative system.
So, what are we to do? One of the themes of James’ letter is for us to become mature or complete as believers. Such maturity begins when we realize that controlling our tongue or any part of our life, cannot be achieved by our own strength and will. In our strength we will fail over and over. Self-control for believers is a fruit of the Spirit. It is only through God’s grace that we can tame our tongues. James 4:7-10, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
As we begin our interaction this year at FCS, may we ask ourselves, can we really be a blessing to God if we are unconcerned about what we say to others? Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Let us purpose to use our speech to praise God and to encourage and bless others. We need to surrender the control of our tongue to the Lord and purpose to demonstrate that our tongues are under God’s control.