I still remember to this day when two eighth grade boys laughed and made fun of me in the boy’s locker room at Newtown Junior High. As an overweight kid, I was blessed with a little too much adipose tissue in my chest. The boys pointed at me and said I belonged in the women’s locker room because I sported a decent set of man boobs.
32 years later I still remember the words those boys said to me and the scar left behind by some immature, mean boys. The way they mocked me reminds me of the fact that words matter and can leave a scar, years or even decades down the road.
“Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is nothing but a nasty lie.
The week this post goes live marks 11 years in full-time marriage ministry for me, working with couples at Watermark as we seek to prepare nearlyweds, establish newlyweds, and enrich and restore all marriages. Much of my time in marriage ministry centers on teaching couples good communication and conflict resolution skills.
Yet, I fall short more often than I like to admit. I get frustrated, yell, get angry, gossip, boast, lie, and much more. And one thing I’ve learned over 11 years is that I’m not alone. We ALL struggle when it comes to communication. In fact, in James 3:2, James writes, “For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.” In other words, every one of us struggles in the ways we communicate and resolve conflict.
In James 3:1-12, James writes about the power of the tongue and our words. Our words matter: what we say and how we say it matter, and we need to learn to be good stewards of our tongues and the words we speak. All throughout the book of James, the reader is reminded that we cannot separate our faith from our conduct, behaviors, and words. One of the marks of an authentic Christian faith is control of our speech.
1. The tongue is POWERFUL (James 3:3-5a):
- As a small bit controls a horse and a rudder directs a large ship, so the tongue, in spite of its small size, possesses great power.
- I’m guilty of exaggerating my words and boasting at times. The tongue is capable of doing powerful things.
2. The tongue is DESTRUCTIVE (James 3:5b-6):
- Like a small spark that can set a forest on fire, so the small tongue can destroy through the words it utters.
- There are times when my words have cut down my children. As James says, sometimes we speak as though our tongue is controlled by Satan.
- Proverbs 18:21 say “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”
3. The tongue is UNCONTROLLABLE (James 3:7-8):
- Even though we have the ability to tame any animal, we cannot control the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
- Over and over we fail at our attempts to tame the tongue. Elephants perform at the circus and animals leap through fiery hoops. We can even get whales to do what we want them to do at Sea World. But, we cannot control or tame the tongue.
4. The tongue is REVEALING (James 3:9-12):
- What comes out of the mouth is indicative of what’s inside of our heart. With the same tongue, we bless God and tear down others made in His likeness. In Luke 6:45, Jesus says, “…for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”
- What comes out of our mouths reveals what’s in our hearts.
How about you? Where do you most often struggle in your words and in the use of your tongue? In part two of this short series on the tongue and our words, I’ll share what we do with this powerful, destructive, uncontrollable, and revealing tongue.
- Do you struggle with your words and your tongue?
- Which characteristic of the tongue most resonates with your struggles – powerful, destructive, uncontrollable, or revealing?