Sticks and Stones - James 3
the tongue being “wild, evil and full of deadly poison”.James is one of my favourite books in the bible for its straight talking, no messing approach. Tradition suggests that it’s written by James, Jesus’ brother and I love the idea that we are getting an insight into the mind of a man who grow up alongside this sinless brother of his. He has first hand knowledge of what a perfect life should look like, whilst knowing full well that his own life wasn't sinless! So if we feel that James is ever setting the bar too high for us or his standards for our Christian living are too hard, just remember he really did grow up with the perfect brother!
In chapter three of James’ book we see him tackle the thorny issue of how we use the words that come out of our mouths. “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me!” a rhyme kids used to sing in the playground to pretend that they weren't upset by the cruel words said by friends. However this is one of the biggest lies I know. Words cut deep, lasting for years and can shape the way people think about themselves. We have the power to use them for good or evil.
James is straight to the point, he talks about the tongue being “wild, evil and full of deadly poison” v 8 and that no one has managed to tame it. He likens it to the rudder of a ship or a bit in a horse’s mouth because of the tongue has the strength to change and determine the direction someone will go and yet it is such a small part of our body. Just think of the ‘X Factor’ or ‘Strictly come Dancing’, the words the judges choose to use have real power and influence not only on those taking part but us at home on how we vote, one misplace word changes the way the singers dancers feel about themselves and whether or not we will vote for them.
He also says the tongue is like a spark that can start a whole forest fire. We only have to look around us to see reports of people such as Donald Trump, who is getting in all kinds of trouble for comments he made about women years ago. We start to see that a comment once said to a ‘friend’ in a private conversation can have dramatic consequences to a political career.
So why has James chosen to talk about the tongue, to spend time concentrating on how we talk to one another? Because what comes out of your mouth shows up what is actually going on in your heart. How you are feeling spills out into your words and ultimately your actions.
How does what you say about people show up the state of your heart?
How does what you choose to comment on social media show about the state of your heart?
How does what you choose to post and share on Facebook and the like, show about the state of your heart?
Does it show a heart that seeks for justice and purity, a heart that thinks of others before itself?
It is a heart that is honest and a fair, not trying to seek for its own moment in the spot light with the best tweet of the day?
Does your heart look like James' view of a life living under the wisdom of God?
“But the wisdom that comes from God is first of all pure, then peaceful, gentle, and easy to please. This wisdom is always ready to help those who are troubled and to do good for others. It is always fair and honest. People who work for peace in a peaceful way plant a good crop of right-living” James 3:18-17
I told you James sets the bar high, but why shouldn't he, why can’t we be people who stand out from the crowd, who speak up for injustice and unfairness. Those who speak out against those who choose to be racist or feminist or sexist or age-est. People who don't use our words to belittle or destroy but instead to encourage, praise and build up. People who can say that the “words of our mouths and the thoughts of our hearts bless your name Jesus” (Tim Hughes - May the Words of my Mouth)
That’s the kind of revolution of the hearts I want to be part of, one that takes on the world view of negative talk and knocking people down from the pedestal we put them on and instead sees goodness in people, even when it’s hard to find. One that uses the power of words to create a society that supports and walks alongside one another. Because we are all on this journey of life and how wonderful would it be if we encouraged one another as we travelled it!
Take the challenge today - say, write, tweet, blog something that James but most of all Jesus would be proud of.