My devotion is a day later than usual, partly because I’ve been knocked out with a bad cold for the past two weeks. It’s amazing how a tiny germ - too small to see without special equipment - can wreak havoc on your whole body. It reminds me of a passage in Scripture that also speaks of small things:
“If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 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. 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. 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.” (James 4:3-6, ESV)
The tongue is powerful. And that’s to be expected.
We are, after all, made in the image of a God whose words were powerful enough to create a universe out of nothing. A God who said, “’Let there be light,’ and there was light’” (Genesis 1:3, ESV). A God who spoke two words and stilled a sea. A God whose words (symbolized by a sword coming from his mouth) will fell Satan and damn him to hell.
And this same God has granted to His image-bearers a limited measure of his verbal power. The power to destroy, as James says, and the power to build up: “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” (Ephesians 4:19, ESV).
James tells us that it’s impossible to control our tongues, as difficult as containing a forest fire (or preventing germs from spreading). Sometimes it’s tempting to give up or to offer meaningless statements like, “I really need to control this” without backing them up with action. So what are we to do?
Here are some practical suggestions to try today:
- Thank God for giving you a powerful tongue. No other creature has the complex ability to communicate linguistically like humans. No other creature images God in this way.
- Speak encouragement. Send a text to someone right now telling him or her of your appreciation. Write a card this week to someone who won’t expect it. Think of something you like about someone who is hard to like right now. Then tell them.
- Consider a word, phrase, or tone that needs to be eliminated from your speech. Make a genuine effort to eliminate it. Write a note and post it somewhere to remind you. Ask your spouse or kids to kindly correct you every time you say it.
In flu season, many of us will go to great lengths to avoid germs and protect our families.
Is our aversion to harmful speech just as strong?
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