“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.” James 3:7-12
By our words we can build up believers, or we can tear them down. We can encourage, or we can destroy. We can make someone’s day with a compliment or destroy it with a stinging criticism. There is so much power in our words, and as the Spiderman cliche goes, with great power comes great responsibility.
Proverbs 18:21 reminds us that “Death and life are in the power of the tongue”. There is so much at stake in the words we say to others. James warns us of the potential for evil of our words, warning that the untamed tongue is a source of deadly poison. We must not unleash that upon the world. We must give careful consideration to the impact our words will have on those who hear them.
James points out the inconsistency of both praise for God and cursings of people made by Him in His image coming out of the same mouth. He reminds us that when we curse someone we are insulting a person who is made in the very image of God. We are degrading God’s creation. This should not happen! We can’t claim to love God and then in the next breath speak hate about His image bearers.
James tells us it is impossible for human beings to tame the tongue. But we are not left to our own devices, we have the Holy Spirit helping us. This means we must constantly be on guard, carefully considering what we say about others, always being mindful that the people we are talking about are made in the image of God. We must not speak slanderously or gossip about image bearers. We must not speak spitefully about a person God has formed. We must use our words to let the Holy Spirit call people to life rather than them becoming a barrier that pushes them away from the Gospel. There is such power and so much at stake in what we say to and about people. We must be known for being people who strive to tame our tongues, through the help of the Holy Spirit, speaking words of hope and life rather than the death that comes through deadly poisonous talk.