In the Bible, the book of James is only five chapters long. But the wisdom and insight in this book is off the charts. Every time I read it, I'm astounded as to how it is applicable to our lives today. How did he know?
My favorite verses in James speak to me because I struggle so much with the subject myself. Here, have a read: "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 body, sets the whole course of one's life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell." (James 3:5-6)
Whoa. Strong words! Strong image. Even stronger truth. How many times have I said something, only to wish I never had? Or, how many of us can still recall the hurtful things people have said to us over the years? Some of those phrases from my life still haunt me.
James wrote about this so long ago and yet it's still relevant today. I guess the human race hasn't gotten any better than it was when James penned his book.
James continues in verse 8, "No human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison." That seems really sad, doesn't it? Hopeless, even. No matter how hard we try, we still utter words that cut others down. For sure, the longer we walk with God, the better we get. But sin is indeed an ugly thing, isn't it? In verse 9, it says, "With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings who have been made in God's likeness."
What we say has such far-reaching results. As Christians, do we want our words to scar our friends and family or to heal them? Obviously, we'd rather help than hurt, but every so often, we launch the deadly weapons of our words-- right at those we love. What are we to do? Are we truly helpless?
Fortunately, James has an abundance of wisdom for us when he writes, "My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires." (James 1:19-20) God gave us our speech and our minds so we can tell others of Him and to build each other up. I think if we remember to be quick to listen and slow to speak, maybe our anger will dissipate before it's shot out of the cannons that can be our mouths.
But in the heat of the moment, just how are we to remember to be quick to listen and slow to speak? Let's face it; we can't do it by our wills alone. The only way to remember James' advice is by the grace of God. And by prayer. Let's ask God to help us remember this. Let's ask Him to help us recognize our inner anger before it erupts as a weapon against the person in front of us.
Oh Lord, please help us. The times are hard, Lord. Fires literally are burning around our country as a result of people's anger. Lord, help us refuse to add fuel to the fires that threaten to burn down our relationships with others. Help us to douse those flames with the water of kind words and peace.
Until next time,