whoever insults or criticizes

Brothers and sisters, don’t say evil things about each other. Whoever insults or criticizes a brother or sister insults and criticizes the Law. If you find fault with the Law, you are not a doer of the Law but a judge over it. (James 4:11 CEB)

With apologies, and thanks, in advance to John Lennon, sing along with me, won’t you?

Imagine there’s no insults
It’s easy if you try
No hell within us
Around us, no lies
Imagine all the people
Living for the Lord

Imagine there’s no criticism
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to slam or gripe for
No fake religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

Holy Father in heaven, let your imagination take root and spread so that the absence of insults and criticism on the lips of your people is what your people are known for. And Father, in the name of Jesus, begin that work with me. Amen.

Wicked words about each other must not be your way, my brothers and sisters. Anyone who insults or criticizes any of Christ’s kin insults and criticizes God’s Rule. If you can’t relate to God’s Rule, you don’t play by the Rule. And if you don’t play by the Rule, you’ve set yourself up over God’s Rule. (James 4:11 DSV)

So imagine and so be it.

the circle of life is set on fire

Think about this: a small flame can set a whole forest on fire. The tongue is a small flame of fire, a world of evil at work in us. It contaminates our entire lives. Because of it, the circle of life is set on fire. The tongue itself is set on fire by the flames of hell. (James 3:5b-6 CEB)

Just one small flame of a word, just a spark from the flames of hell if you will, is all it takes to:

dash any hope for a smoldering wick of faith to continue
disorient those who were just beginning to find their way
desensitize the heart that was close to becoming numb
drain all remaining hope from the nearly hopeless
deceive a good person into doing wrong
dampen the enthusiasm of the zealous
divorce what God has joined together
destroy what took decades to gain
darken the light in a conversation
dull the impact of a winning word
deny mercy to someone in need
devalue someone’s self-worth
destroy a person’s reputation
drive someone over the brink
discourage the encouraged
drum up tension and strife
dismember a fragile spirit
downgrade a relationship
disease a healthy mind
distort a truth into a lie
desecrate the sacred
divide a congregation
dishearten members
devastate leaders
doom someone

Choose your words wisely today for lives depend on them. Let your speech be a channel for the water of life and not fuel for the fires of hell.

Put this in your pipe and smoke it: all it takes to burn up a forest full of trees is one small flame and your tongue is that one fire. Never forget that evil of global dimensions labors on within you, evil that pollutes people through and through. This evil sets life’s whole course on fire and hell fire itself is the source of the flames of evil you feel on your tongue. (James 3:5b-6 DSV)

In the name of Jesus, Father, today I offer my tongue and the thoughts that move it up as an offering of worship to you. Work with me in this, Lord. When I seek to hold my tongue, give me a good grip. When I decide to say a word, may it be uttered as if spoken directly to you. And when I don’t know which is the better course, God, show me the way, liberally pouring your wisdom out on me. So be it.

it boasts wildly

Consider ships: they are so large that strong winds are needed to drive them. But pilots direct their ships wherever they want with a little rudder. In the same way, even though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts wildly. (James 3:4-5a CEB)

If we’re the ship and our tongue is the ship’s rudder, the problem isn’t with the rudder. God gave us a great ship and a great rudder. No, the problem is with the pilot operating the rudder.

  • I speak without thinking first.
  • I think in shallow ways and my speech is therefore shallow.
  • I refuse to work at thinking and so I’m clueless and uncommitted in my speech toward others.
  • I don’t think about forgiving as Christ forgave and so I don’t speak forgiveness to myself or others.
  • I’m happy to let others do my thinking for me so my speech tells others I’m simply a parrot or puppet of others.
  • I don’t think about seeing things from another point of view so my speech betrays me as callous, cold, or uncaring.
  • I think more highly of myself than I ought to think and so the way I talk comes across as boastful, proud, or arrogant.
  • I harbor bitterness or hatred in my heart’s thoughts and so my speech is saturated with barbs and insults toward others.
  • I don’t try to learn knew things and so my tongue reveals to others that my thoughts are stale, outdated, or just plain wrong.
  • I think in narrow, limited ways and so my speech is narrowed and limited in ability to communicate and connect with others.

A big ship and a small rudder means a mature, responsible, attentive, ever-learning pilot is required.

Holy Father in heaven, how on earth can I steer my life without your guiding my hand on the tiller? Penetrate my thick skull and tune my thoughts toward you without ceasing I pray in Christ’s name. Amen.

Think about how large ships require strong winds to move them, but their pilots steer them how they will by means of a relatively small rudder. The same is true of the tongue: it’s a small part of one’s body, but it makes big talk. (James 3:4-5a DSV)

avoiding worthlessness

“If those who claim devotion to God don’t control what they say, they mislead themselves. Their devotion is worthless.” (James 1:26 CEB)

“Here I am Father with my checklist. What do you think?”

  1. Read my Bible daily. Check.
  2. Say “grace” before every meal, private or public. Check.
  3. In the church house every time the doors are open and I can be there. Check.
  4. Attend and participate in Bible classes. Check.
  5. Regularly drop a meaningful amount of my income in the contribution plate. Check.
  6. Wear a smile and a deliberately display a pleasant, public demeanor. Check.
  7. Serve as I can, leading prayer, working the nursery, passing communion, greeting guests. Check.
  8. Actively participate in small groups and other ministries. Check.
  9. Volunteering, being quick and eager to do whatever is asked of me by church leaders. Check.
  10. Looking after folks I’ve heard are sick or are in trouble, praying and doing what I can. Check.
  11. Often invite people to come to church with me. Check.
  12. Have done all of the above for years upon years. Check.

“So, Father, how did I do? What’s my score?”

“Zero.”

“What?!”

“Worthless.”

“What on earth do you mean?!”

  1. Your cutting, whispered words in the corridor leave other people bleeding inside.
  2. Your idle talk and gossip cause great, damaging stress to my Son’s body.
  3. Your flattery to try to gain personal advantage feeds the cynicism and skepticism of others.
  4. Your speculative speech and insinuations cause people to cry themselves to sleep at night.
  5. Your dismissive way of speaking to some adds great weight to people’s already heavy burdens.
  6. Your camouflaged insults tears down respect for truly good people.
  7. Your demeaning conversations with your mate has turned their spirit cold, and not just to you.
  8. Your slanderous words about people with whom you disagree, callouses people’s hearts.
  9. Your flippant comments lead others to blindness as to the seriousness of what’s going on.
  10. Your speech that says to your children they never quite measure up sucks the life out of them.
  11. Your colorful language on the job, all in the name of “just doing business,” tarnishes My name.
  12. Your silence when a good word is desperately needed is damning.

“But … but … doesn’t anything I’ve shown you count for anything?”

“My child, what you say, and how you say it, tells me who you are, and whose you really are, down deep inside.”

Heavenly Father, remind me frequently throughout every day of the amazing gift you’ve given me: a tongue that can speak as Jesus spoke. Remind even more often of the even greater gift you’ve given me: a conscience/mind informed by Christ. In the name of my Lord and Savior, help me to always use those two gifts together. Amen.

“People can appear to be devoted to God, but if they don’t keep a tight rein on their words, they’re only tricking themselves if they think their ‘devotion’ is worth anything.” (James 1:26 DSV)