Sticks and stones

There’s never been a bigger lie than the old “Sticks and Stones” rhyme.

Everyone reading this has been deeply wounded by something someone said. Everyone reading this has hurt someone through a verbal dagger in a moment of anger or thoughtlessness.

James isn’t exaggerating when he writes:

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. 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 3:6-12).

It’s a fire, a deadly poison, the epitome of hypocrisy. It divides marriages, splits churches, destroys reputations, and ends friendships.

It’s impossible to exaggerate how much damage has been done through the years by the tongue. History is littered with vivid examples, and our lives probably are too.

I think of things I’ve said to people I love, and how often I’ve wished to turn back the clock.

But you can’t unsay things, can you?

James also points out how often the tongue makes hypocrites out of us. A freshwater spring won’t produce saltwater, he writes, and a fig tree won’t grow grapes.
But sometimes the mouth of a Christian blesses God on Sunday and slanders God’s children on Monday. Do we ever praise the Lord in worship and then gossip on the way home? Do we worship God for his holiness and then use the same tongue to lie?

In your devotional time today, talk to the Lord about your tongue. You can’t tame it, of course, but ask God to put a muzzle on you when he wants you to keep quiet. Ask him to give you wisdom to know what needs to be said and what ought to remain unsaid. Ask him to sanctify your speech so that there won’t be a disconnect between your Sunday praise and your Monday speech.

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