(James 3: 7 – 12; Colossians 4: 5 – 6)
“. . . . . ., but no human being can tame the tongue. . . . . . With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? . . . . .” James 3: 7 – 12 (NIV)
“Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” Colossians 4: 5 – 6 (NKJV)
“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4: 6 (NIV)
Recently, there was a public outcry over inappropriate behavior of a tour guide in the Bay Area of California on her last day of work. The guide later apologized, so did her employer.
We live in a world of competing values. Without making excuses for inappropriate behavior, it is still important to remember that no baby is born with a mental bank, or library of vocabulary. Babies build their vocabulary as they grow and learn to make speech sounds like “Aah. Aah” to “Da-dah. Da-dah”. In due course, children and adults reflect what they have been exposed to through the years – magazines, literature, text books, the mass media, their homes, schools, social media and social groups and what they have come to value. We are bombarded with words that assail our ears and eyes, but ultimately, words that come out of our mouth, reflect who we are inside – more accurately, who we have chosen to become. Out of the mouth comes words that can build, or destroy.
Without a conscientious effort to filter the competing values we learn from these environments, in the heat of the moment, our words may reflect world values we should have left behind, when we became believers. Yet just as fresh water and salt water cannot flow from the same spring, neither should our tongue both praise the Lord and curse at people, as the Epistle of James warns us.
Despite the deluge of competing values, God is still in control. Remember He has endowed you with a will to control your tongue through His grace and power.
The Epistle to the Colossians says, “Let your conversation be gracious . . .” Occasionally? No. Always! How do we achieve this, when we live in the real world, surrounded by real people like us? Jesus warned us to watch what comes out of us. What comes out of the mouth reflects the condition of the heart. (Matthew 15: 11ff).
As followers of Christ, we can ask the Lord to help us avoid using profanity, or expletives, regardless of our environment, or circumstances. Practice refined speech whether you are alone, or with family, friends, close work associates, or people who delight in using vulgar language just to fit in with a group – even if you trust them to keep your conversations confident, and you will find it easier to express yourself in public, without expletives.
Refined speech is not pretentious, or haughty, or using grand words, or sounding like an orator, it’s being gracious – getting into the habit of using simple, clean, wholesome words, routinely. Soft words turn away anger (Proverbs 15:1). Wholesome words are pleasing to God’s ears. (Psalm 19: 7ff, *verse 14).
According to a common saying, children do what they observe more than what they’re told. Children also repeat what they hear and read. These children grow up to become adults – our neighbors, college mates, or work associates; the passenger talking, or more appropriately, yelling on the phone, the lunch time crowd walking in front of us, or behind us – spewing out words in the air.
As followers of Christ, we need to continue praying that the LORD would help us develop the habit of focusing on what is pure and good (Philippians 4: 8f), even if it may be challenging sometimes. We should also continue asking Him to guide our tongue, so that we can honor Him, and be good examples to the young ones, and those in our spheres of influence. Our effort may pay off one day, in the form of palatable clean air, devoid of profanity and expletives. We would reap the reward of neighbors, associates and other people who choose to use their tongues to bless consistently.
Prayer for God’s help to watch the mouth
Father, help me be mindful of my words when I’m alone, or with family, friends, or trusted associates, so that my manner of speech may be consistent both in private and in public and honor you. May the words that flow out of my heart through my mouth be pleasing to your ears and touch the lives of other people through your grace, I pray, in Jesus’ Name. Amen.