Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
Before I became dead serious about following Jesus, I had allowed quite a bit of unwholesome speech to come out of my mouth. At one time when I was in the USMC I was letting the "F" bomb come out of my mouth so often that a fellow Marine told me that I was offending her! I laughed. Really? That is just how desensitized I had become. Truly I was not taking the Ephesians 4:29 verse to heart. " Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear."
Eventually I did decide to clean up my speech, removing the swear words. Yet I continued to be critical of people, most likely I was trying to make myself feel better about myself. And I was angry in my words and in my attitudes. A little over a decade ago I was convicted by the James passage above. Oh, I knew the passage, at least verse 19, but it was verse 20 that now caught my heart. In the King James Bible it says "for the wrath of man works not the righteousness of God." What was I usually trying to accomplish by my anger or my critical words? It was to get people to change what they were doing. But now I was confronted with the fact that my anger was going to do nothing of the sort. I was drawn up short.
James is a great practical book. What can be more practical than the first twelve verses of Chapter 3:
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2 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. 3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 4 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. 5 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! 6 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. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind,8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers,bthese things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.
Have you learned anything from these passages on the tongue? Have you decided to take any new actions in your life because of these passages?
May the Lord bless us as we seek to only use our tongues in ways that honor Him.