“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For all of us make many mistakes. Anyone who makes no mistakes in speaking is perfect, able to keep the whole body in check with a bridle. If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we guide their whole bodies. Or look at ships: though they are so large that it takes strong winds to drive them, yet they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell. For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water? Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh.” (James 3:1-12)
When I read the first verse, using new fresh eyes and not assuming anything, I was afraid I was going to have write a treatise on how to know if one should be a teacher of God’s word. Fortunately the writer of James went a different direction, and so I can sigh a sigh of relief! But let me hasten to say that people should be sure that teaching the word of God is a blessing and gift from God.
However watching one’s tongue is a task that all people should take seriously no matter their calling in life and their contribution to their faith circle. Do you realize, beloved reader, that every word we speak (or write) needs to be thought of and generated by our brain before we set it forth in the world? So really, if we “blurt” something out, it was and is in our control to NOT place our “foot in our mouth” so to speak! Now I realize in the general give and take of conversation we may not filter our words very strictly. It is possible, therefore, to do a word “faux pas” without realizing. But with the increasing importance of the conversations that we might have, it behooves us to pay attention to what we are going to say.
The writer of James gives good examples of the might of the tongue; and his care in picking his words underlines and illustrates the importance of thinking through what we are going to say . . . before we say it. I am reminded of the illustration of throwing chicken feathers (or any other small type of feathers actually) into the wind, and then having to gather them back up. And the writer of James, I am sure, felt special urgency to caution his readers since the early Christians were watched, evaluated, and judged most closely.
Here in Oregon, as in many other states, forest fires and wild fires are out of control. Homes have been burned, lives lost, and acres and acres of creation ruined. “Tongues” of fire can do both literal and figurative damage, beloved reader.
May you hold and guard you tongue so that your thoughts and tongue be counted as a blessing. Selah!