James gets right to the point of true wisdom that encourages, so will I. He writes about the tongue, that sometimes ugly but necessary part of our anatomy. Our tongue helps us to chew on our food so digestion is accomplished in a healthy manner. Our tongue can also help us form and chew on words that help or hurt. There doesn’t seem to be an in-between. Help or hurt. Here is the larger thought: Our tongue is not on its own, it is controlled by what is in our minds. So, who controls our minds? What are we feeding our minds? Our mouths spew words that come from our hearts and from the depth of our souls. So, what are we feeding our hearts? Who fills our souls?
It seems then, that when we are tempted to open our mouths—don’t. Ask God for wisdom first. Friends, how many problems in our relationships could be deescalated if we thought first, with God’s help and wisdom, before opening our mouths!
What if we THINK before we form mindless words that will slide over our tongues to set an already fiery situation to a roaring blaze? Can we THINK before words flow from our broken hearts that will break the hearts of those who broke ours? How about we stop and THINK before words spring up from the depths of souls fed by polluted wells of limited knowledge. When prompted by emotion, assumptions and presumptions to open our mouths—don’t.
THINK—the great filter for our words to pass through with prayer to God
Ask these questions before words are formed:
T—Is what I am about to say my personal opinion or the TRUTH of God?
H—Is what I am about to say going to be HELPFUL to the person and the circumstance?
I—Is what I am about to say going to INSPIRATIONAL, building up the person to whom the words are spoken?
N—Is what I am about to say even NECESSARY? Is a silent hug the best for this moment? Personal opinions are rarely necessary.
K—Is what I am about to say going to be KIND, graciously said from God’s Spirit of love within us?
When we open our mouths—don’t. THINK first. This is the James way to “Live well, live wisely, live humbly.”
James 3, The Message
When You Open Your Mouth
3 1-2 Don’t be in any rush to become a teacher, my friends. Teaching is highly responsible work. Teachers are held to the strictest standards. And none of us is perfectly qualified. We get it wrong nearly every time we open our mouths. If you could find someone whose speech was perfectly true, you’d have a perfect person, in perfect control of life.
3-5 A bit in the mouth of a horse controls the whole horse. A small rudder on a huge ship in the hands of a skilled captain sets a course in the face of the strongest winds. A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it!
5-6 It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.
7-10 This is scary: You can tame a tiger, but you can’t tame a tongue—it’s never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image. Curses and blessings out of the same mouth!
10-12 My friends, this can’t go on. A spring doesn’t gush fresh water one day and brackish the next, does it? Apple trees don’t bear strawberries, do they? Raspberry bushes don’t bear apples, do they? You’re not going to dip into a polluted mud hole and get a cup of clear, cool water, are you?
Live Well, Live Wisely
13-16 Do you want to be counted wise, to build a reputation for wisdom? Here’s what you do: Live well, live wisely, live humbly. It’s the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts. Mean-spirited ambition isn’t wisdom. Boasting that you are wise isn’t wisdom. Twisting the truth to make yourselves sound wise isn’t wisdom. It’s the furthest thing from wisdom—it’s animal cunning, devilish plotting. Whenever you’re trying to look better than others or get the better of others, things fall apart and everyone ends up at the others’ throats.
17-18 Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.
May my heart, mind and soul which spills out of my mouth, over my tongue come from your Spirit living in me—not from imperfect me. Help me to think before I speak. Help me to Live well, live wisely, live humbly led by You. Transform my thinking until my behavior is pleasing to you.
In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen