It’s fun watching babies discover how to make sounds with their mouths and tongues. While it’s all gibberish, they realize that they are able to produce a wide variety of noises. Like babies, adults have the ability to make a wide variety of noises – and it’s not all good!
How we use our tongues is a big part of practical Christianity (not just what we believe but how we actually live out our faith in real life). This is what James is talking about in 3:1-12 ~
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.
How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.
One little body part can bring on so many BIG problems. The tongue is a spark that starts forest fires! Our words can do incredible damage if we’re not careful.
I’m always reminded of a joke my mom taught me when I was a kid about a big-mouthed little frog. I’ve heard several variations, but the gist of it goes like this:
A big-mouthed little frog was hopping down the road when he saw a cat. In a very loud voice the frog yelled, “MR. CAT! TELL ME, WHAT DO YOU EAT?” The cat yawned and said, “I drink milk,” and went back to sleep. The frog said, “OH, THAT’S NICE!” and hopped down the road.
Then the big-mouthed little frog met a dog. “MR. DOG!” shouted the frog, “WHAT DO YOU EAT?” “I eat meat,” said the dog. The frog shouted, “OH, THAT’S NICE!” and hopped down the road.
Then the big-mouthed little frog met a cow munching on some grass. The big-mouth frog shouted, “MR. COW, WHAT DO YOU EAT?” “Can’t you see?” said the cow. “I eat grass!” Again, the frog shouted in its big voice, “OH! THAT’S NICE!” and hopped away.
Then the frog saw a big alligator on the side of the road and shouted, “MR. ALLIGATOR! WHAT DO YOU EAT?” The alligator smiled a big, toothy smile, looked at the frog, and said, “I eat big-mouthed little frogs.” The frog hopped back, then whispered in a very small voice, “Oh… that’s nice.”
We can choose what we do with our mouths! We can build people up or tear them down. Proverbs 10:19 says it like this:
When there are many words, sin is unavoidable, but the one who controls his lips is wise.
So what’s the answer to the problem? Jesus tells us:
How can you speak good things when you are evil? For the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart. A good man produces good things from his storeroom of good, and an evil man produces evil things from his storeroom of evil. (MATTHEW 12:34-35)
To change your mouth you have to change your heart – when we actually develop a loving and caring heart then our words will follow. Our goal should be to speak life: affirming words, compliments, loving words,
Imagine a world where people use their tongues to help people rather than hurt people. One kind word can make a HUGE difference in someone’s life – be the person to speak it! You have the power to create or destroy – which will you choose?
– How have I been hurt by someone’s words?
– Have I used my words to hurt others?
– How can I be more intentional to build others up through my words?