It was late high school, and I was helping lead the children’s choir of the local Nazarene Church. We were on stage, and altogether calling on the congregation to stand and sing a song with us, “Keep your tongue from evil, keep your tongue.” The fun part of the song is that you’re supposed to sing it while holding your tongue, which makes all sorts of fun noises possible with a large group. 🙂
In my fierce days as a teenage “Jesus Freak”, the phrase simply meant things like “don’t cuss”, or “don’t say God in inappropriate ways”. Since then, I’ve learned the power of words go far beyond that, both in giving life, and bringing death.
“but no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so.” James 3:8-10
In the beginning, God spoke. From those words, all of creation came into being. We’ve been created in the image of that God. Sure, we can’t materialize entire universes from the voids of chaos – but we can sure do great, and horrible things with words. As parents, we are reminded of this daily.
It doesn’t take much. A brief moment of necessary correction, even spoken with a soft loving voice. Such a moment sends our 2 year old cowering in shame and (sometimes feigned) grief. She does not want to disappoint mommy and daddy. On the other hand, one simple smile combined with a word or two of genuine pride or encouragement, and our little girls are beaming brighter than a sunrise in a house of mirrors.
Words are powerful. James recognized this, and urged any who would listen. We can join with our creator in speaking words than bring light from darkness, life where there was none, and beauty/purpose where there was chaos. If we do, it impacts our entire being. But on the same token, we must be of one tongue. Just as a salt spring cannot produce fresh water (v.12), a tongue that brings cursing cannot also be praising God.
Sometimes the last place we put this into practice, is in the home. We’re careful with our words in public. At work. Among friends. Even among extended family. But often, home is where we grow comfortable enough to say just about anything. When in reality, home is the very first place we need to be keeping our tongue trained on righteousness. Speaking words of Love. Words that bring and encourage life and light. Grace, and forgiveness. Beauty, and creativity.
May God be with us this week, as we focus on having one tongue – beginning in the home. After all, many of us are literally teaching the next generation how to speak…