Have you ever put your foot in your mouth? No, not literally but figuratively in that you said something that came out awkward, inappropriate, or offensive. You might have had good intentions in saying whatever it was, but those pesky words came out and people looked at you like you just punched them in the gut. I remember discussing a nearby town, Krum, with somebody. In this conversation I said something along the lines, “I don’t like Krum. It just seems crummy to me.” (See what I did there?) As I’m saying this, a gentleman standing next to me responded by stating that he lived there. Oops. That got awkward fast. I was merely trying to explain how I connected the word “crummy” with the town’s name “Krum” because they sounded similar. Krum is in fact a nice little town. Another one of my favorite awkward moments is asking a woman when the baby is due…but she’s not pregnant.
James teaches us that we need to be careful with what we say. Our words can condemn, control, corrupt, and compromise who we are. James likens our words to fire that burns down the forests. Our words can destroy. We can hurt people with the simplest little words. When we gossip or spread rumors about somebody, they are burned and hurt by our words. When we speak out of anger, we burn and hurt our loved ones.
James teaches us to be slow to speak and especially slow to anger in chapter one. He teaches that anger does not produce the righteousness of God in us and towards others. Speaking out of anger does not correct, teach, or love another person. It only hurts them and pushes them away from the love of God. James then teaches us that our actions prove our faith in Christ. Well, so do our words. James says of our words, “With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing” (3:9-10). In chapter one he also talks about double-minded people because of their doubt (1:5-8), and he talks about people giving lip service and claiming to have faith but their actions show otherwise in chapter two (2:18). Our words ought to reveal our faith in Christ and build up people.
Jesus says, “What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” (Matt. 15:18-19). The most honest people are children, drunken people, and angry people. They either haven’t learned to filter and be careful with what they say, or there is something inhibiting their ability filter their words. They say what is on their hearts and minds. Our words reveal what is in our hearts. If our hearts are not changed and conformed to the heart of Christ, then evil things will come out of them.
Only God can change our hearts, but we can pursue His righteousness by seeking His wisdom and truth through prayer and studying scripture. “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (James 3:17-18). We must seek the wisdom of God to be able to tame our tongues so we don’t hurt people. This is why songs aren’t just songs and movies aren’t just movies. When we listen to music and watch movies with foul language, acts of hateful violence, and sexual content, our hearts conform to this “wisdom” instead of the wisdom of God. We fill our hearts with hate, sexual ideas, and foul language, and then these things come out of our mouths.
A friend and I were talking about the V.I.C. song “Wobble” recently. It’s a catchy song and apparently fun to dance to. (I wouldn’t know because I don’t dance. Trust me, you don’t want me to.) But this song is extremely vulgar and sexual, and there are plenty of Christians that will listen and dance to it saying, “It’s just a song.” But it is so much more than a song. Listening to things like this changes our hearts and minds. It is not of God, and the more we indulge of things not of God, the less like God we become.
“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.” (Eph. 4:29). As believers our words should reveal our changed hearts by Christ. Our words should be loving and uplifting towards others leading them to the love and righteousness of God.