Yogi Berra, the former New York Yankees catcher gave us many “Yogi-isms” said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” The context of that statement according to his book was he was giving someone directions to his house. However, that saying has been used by many people in trying to give wisdom to other people. When you come to a fork in the road, you have to pick a path. Well, the same is true in how we use our words. One of the greatest gifts we have been given by God is the ability to communicate with people. However, we must be careful in how we communicate. Our words can either be a blessing to others or they can cause great pain. In speaking of our tongue, the Bible says it is the only thing that mankind can’t tame. James wrote a lot about our speech as Christians. James 3:7-10 says, “For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile, and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.”
In previous verses, James talks about how small the tongue is in comparison to the rest of our body. He compares our tongue to the bit put in a horse’s mouth and the rudder of a ship used to turn the ship. James says that although our tongue is small, it is able to control a lot. James makes an interesting statement when he says that we bless God, but then we curse man, who is made in the image of God. James is drawing a connection between our we speak to others is really revealing how we feel towards God. To curse someone made in His image, is to curse God Himself because God is the Creator of all mankind. So, when you are telling someone off, you are in a way telling God off. I think a question that we should ask ourselves before we open our mouths is this, would I say the same things to God or about God as I am getting ready to say to or about this person? While we often try to justify harsh words by saying that our emotions got the better of us, Jesus has a different take. In Matthew 15:18, Jesus said, “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man.” The context of this statement is that Jesus had offended the Pharisees by saying they were exactly like the Old Testament prophet Isaiah said Israel was when he wrote, “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.” The Pharisees focused on the outward actions of the Law, but neglected the heart and motivations behind obeying the Law. Jesus was saying that they were doing the right things outwardly, but inside their heart wasn’t right. Then, Jesus tells a parable to demonstrate that truth. Afterwards, Peter comes up and asks Jesus to explain what Jesus meant by that parable. Peter’s question lead to Jesus’ statement in Matthew 15:18. Jesus’ point is that what comes out of our mouth reveals what is truly in our heart. So, when we lose control and have an angry outburst; we may say that emotions got the best of me; however, Jesus would say that what came out of us is what is truly inside of our heart. Here is the dangerous deception, we are very good at covering up the real us. We are so good at it, we even fool ourselves into believing that we are good people who just slipped up. Jesus would say, you didn’t slip up, you just got caught with your mask off, and the real you shone through in that moment. That’s hard to hear isn’t it? I think of those times that I have “lost” it even momentarily. This is why we must be in the Bible daily, because it accurately diagnoses who we are. But it also points us to Jesus, who is our hope and our help. James says that we can’t tame the tongue. His intention is to point us to Jesus. It’s not about trying harder to watch your mouth. It is about surrendering your body to Jesus, and asking the Holy Spirit to work in you and change you. We can’t tame our tongue, but the Holy Spirit can. We need to ask God to search us and to reveal who we truly are, and then we need to ask for His help to make us into the man or woman we are supposed to be.
Our words reflect our heart. You wouldn’t go swimming in a dirty pool would you? You would want it clean. Then why are we ok walking around with a dirty heart? Use your words wisely, because they can speak life to someone or they can destroy them. One of the most important times to remember the power of your words is when you are hurting or you are angry. Words that come out in a moment can do a lifetime of damage, and sometimes the damage can’t be undone. We all like to be encouraged by others, so give the encouragement to others that you hope others will give to you. Use your words to build up, not to tear down.
By His grace and for His glory,