James chapter 3 starts with a bang and he isn't messing around. This is a great book to teach about, but when I transition from teaching others to self application it gets downright uncomfortable.
We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. James 3:3-8 (NLT)
Yeah, I have done that sometimes. The right word at the right time, and the whole world gets turned upside down. I've watched other people do it too. I start my own little fires when I tell my husband about my day and the antics and behaviors of his children...or when I make an overly critical comment about something someone else is doing...or when a pick a less than loving tone during a conversation with a person that I am not deeply invested in. Then there are those times I have told someone something that they really didn't need to know or hear about - and I labeled it "venting" or "sharing burdens." My Bible has this addition at the end of verse 9, "so shut your mouth Trish Wilson". I think James meant to write that...maybe it was lost in the Hebrew to English translation.
9 Sometimes it (the tongue) praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring. James 3:9-11 (NLT)
Well, ok then. I don't curse or criticize God. God is God. He's bigger than me and smarter than me. His ways are not my ways. He is the infinite creator of all and He is, was, and always will be. I am a girl, and the older I get the more I learn how little I truly know or understand. Things have happened I just didn't understand. I have been angry, hurt and confused - but there has never been a point for me when I wanted to curse or criticize God. But verses 9 -11 aren't about that. These divine morsels are about the words I use in relation to other people. When I read this verses I think of the saying "do you kiss your mama with that mouth?" and I visualize all of the Obitz gum "dirty mouth" commercials. Sometimes I use my words like a soda dispenser - I press the Sprite button for the words I use when talking with God, they are cool, crisp and refreshing; light with no aftertaste. I press Cherry Coke words for when I am at work; it's a little fun, but it still gets the job done. Mr Pibb-perhaps the best drink ever invented, gets selected when talking with my family or close friends. And I would wrap up the possible choices with the worst flavor ever, Orange Crush would be chosen for those times when I need to talk with those people in my life who try really hard to be annoying, unfriendly and unlikable.
But if I look at what James is saying in these verses, it's clear that soda fountain language is not what God ever intended for me or any of His children. Make no mistake, this truth is directed to followers of Christ; that's why James specifically writes "my brothers and sisters." Remember, as a Christ follower I am developing more of the character traits of my Creator, Savior and Lord. His will becomes my will, His ways become my ways. I think instead of behaving like a soda fountain talker, God wants me to be more like a water cooler. The temperature of my words may change based on the needs of the moment. But the make up of the drink should be constant, full of love, grace, mercy and truth. I need to be a water cooler. I can't do it myself. Lucky for me, God is on my side and He loves to transform things in me that I could never change on my own.