The tongue..is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. (James 3:8)
Poison! Both a word and a warning. We label and lock up poisons, alert to their danger. We guard our children from poisonous substances. But do we guard them against poisonous speech? James gives a strong warning in Chapter 3 about the dangers of the tongue.
“A restless evil, full of deadly poison.” The casualties of the tongue are our relationships. And relationships with God and with each other are the only things we take with us into eternity. No wonder James issues this sober warning:
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. (James 3:9,10)
The tongue divides families, churches, nations. And I remind you that the word for devil is diabalos, or “divider.” Divorce, division, disunity. The devil’s job description.
“With the tongue, we curse human beings,” James writes. He’s not talking about profanity, here. The word for “curse” is kataraomi, meaning to “wish evil or ruin on someone.” It’s related to the word, katalaleo, or “to speak against.” Ouch! Does that step on anyone’s toes?
Poisonous speech is often at the heart of family break-ups. We know from Malachi 2:16 that God hates divorce. Malachi calls this”breaking faith” with one’s spouse. God also hates it when we break faith with one another (verse 10). Malachi’s solution? “Guard yourself in your spirit and do not break faith.”
Do whatever it takes to guard yourself in your spirit. Spend time daily in God’s Word and prayer. Exercise self control in your spiritual disciplines. And especially, guard yourself against evil thoughts that lead to poisonous speech, gossip, slander. Angry thoughts turn into angry words. You may need to talk things out, walk through loving confrontation, and repent from your mistakes. It’s worth your best effort to guard yourself and your family against poisonous speech. Your relationships will be better off for it
Lord, I confess that my mouth gets ahead of my mind sometimes. Words slip out before I even think about the damage they might cause. And my words, whispered in secret, can damage and divide relationships without even my awareness. Wake me up, Lord! Make me alert to this hidden danger, confessing quickly when I stumble. Thanks for your words and your warning through James. -Amen.
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