The tongue is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. (James 3:8)
Poison! It is 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 caution about the dangers of the tongue. He calls it “a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” The main casualties of the tongue are our relationships. That’s important, because our 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)
Used wrongly, the tongue can divide families, churches, and even nations. The Greek word translated “devil” is diabalos which means “divider.” Think about it. Divorce, division, disunity. All fall under 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 means to “wish evil or ruin on someone.” It’s related to a word which means “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. Malachi’s solution? “Guard yourself in your spirit and do not break faith” (Malachi 2:10).
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. Above all, guard yourself against the evil thoughts that lead to poisonous speech, gossip, and 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 words, whispered in secret can damage and divide relationships, even when I’m not aware of it. Wake me up, Lord! Make me alert to this hidden danger. Prod me to confess quickly when I stumble. Thanks for Your words and Your warning through James.