If anyone considers himself religious and yet doesn’t keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. James 1:26 NIV
What does a tongue do? Aside from helping us to swallow and expressing a few body language shortcuts, it digs words from our hearts and speaks them.
When James wrote the Scripture above, literacy was rare. People had only their tongues to speak with. Today, though, we have other tongues—pens, publishers, keyboards—which have the power to reach the entire world. Toss a pebble into a quiet little pool and the ripples spread to the edge, then die out. Sling that same pebble from your computer keyboard, and it will fall into thousands of interconnected ponds and pools and oceans at once. The ripples can take on a life of their own and become a tsunami.
Some pebbles need to be thrown into the hearts of men: comfort, healing, forgiveness, instruction, encouragement, exhortation. But some pebbles need to be hurled straight back at Satan. Gossip and slander are obvious, or should be, to every Christ-follower. Others, intentional or unintentional, are more subtle. Words that nibble at the foundation of the faith of a child of God. Words that throw a “road closed” sign in front of truthseekers.
“Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me” was my mother’s default advice whenever we ran crying to her about some childhood cruelty.
She was wrong.
Sticks and stones can break a bone—but words can break a heart.
Everyone has a voice, even the mute and illiterate. Everyone makes an impression in this world. Everyone makes a difference, good, not-so-good, or bad. Our duty, and our joy, is to shine the love of Christ, the knowledge of Christ, the hope of Christ, into this dark world.
Have you examined that word you’re about to load into your slingshot? Is it a building stone? Or, is it a wrecking ball?
Dear Jesus, You prayed for our unity. Help us to use words to reach into each other’s hearts to draw together, not to drive apart. In Your holy name, Amen.