In 2013, TV news anchor AJ Clemente had a rough first (and last) day on the job. Before the start of the evening bulletin on KFYR in Bismarck, North Dakota, AJ’s nerves and anxiety manifested in a string of swear words under his breath. Failing to notice that his microphone was switched on, AJ dropped a series of big league explicatives live on air. It was quite the shock for local Bismarckians who had tuned in to the Evening Report and his careless tongue cost AJ his job. I bet AJ wishes he’d been in a Bible study on the book of James before he anchored that newscast.
On Sunday we studied what the Apostle James has to teach the church about taming the tongue. James identifies the work of subjecting the words we speak to the desires of Christ as a powerful challenge. It is more difficult to tame the tongue than to tame a wild beast, James teaches, and we all make mistakes when it comes to the way we wield the powerful weapon of our words. If you missed the sermon on Sunday, you can listen to it here.
Even though it is not easy to do, James teaches us that followers of Jesus Christ ought to be a blessing to others in the words that we speak. With the same mouth that we use to profess faith in Christ and sing praise to God, we should not be cursing those who are made in the image of God.
This does not mean that Christians won’t ever speak a hard word, deliver a challenging message or call out injustice. In fact, the whole letter of James is a challenging message for the church to hear and absorb. But James’ teaching does mean that followers of Jesus should be thoughtful about how we steward the clout we have in our words.
You are holding a powerful sword in the words you speak. Will you use it as a surgeon uses a scalpel to repair and heal, or will you use it as a wonton machete to hack away whomever might lie in your path?
James wants us to be considerate and pure in the words we speak and to leave others better than we found. Not easy to do, but with God’s help, you and I are capable of wielding this weapon well.
Grateful to be learning how to tame the tongue alongside you,