Thursday, May 21, 2009

James on the tongue

Scot McKnight on his blog Jesus Creed has an excellent series on James, in which right now he is working through the passage on the tongue.

James is excellent on the tongue, akin to the Proverbs in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). We learn that the use of our tongue is an important measure of how we control the rest of our body, and whether or not we are living as one who is wise.

James points out that those who don't keep a tight rein on their tongue deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. And he emphasizes the importance of being quick to listen and slow to speak.

Sometimes we just shrug our shoulders in trying to measure or spiritual progress in Christian formation. But considering our speech, what we say, is one important indicator of our growth in grace into Christ-likeness. Just because one does control their tongue, as Scot points out, does not mean they're becoming like Christ. But a major part of following Jesus is how we use our tongue both in avoiding what is destructive, and in speaking what is helpful and healing to others. And that includes wounds from a friend. And that goes both ways for us.

This is a big part of my life, as all of our lives. If you talk much like I can, or talk little, what you do say expresses your heart. It's not just a matter of managing our tongues, but it goes to our very hearts. Are we being transformed into Christ's image, by the renewing of our minds through the Spirit and the word in our day to day lives?

Any words you'd like to share on the tongue?


nannykim said...

Great post--the tongue really is a reflection of what is in our hearts, isn't it! What comes out of our mouth at times surprises us, but that is because we don't know ourselves well. I guess our tongues help to remove some of the deception---I may think I am doing well in a certain area or relationship and then the tongue fires out!! I guess it would be good to listen to ourselves and analyze what we are saying to get a better hold on the work that needs to be done in our hearts!

preacherman said...

I know that with all the pain and stress that we have in life it is easy for us to hurt the ones closest to us. I hate it when I do that. I hope and pray as I get feeling better that my tounge will come in line with God's will that I will bless and not curse.

Marcus Goodyear said...

One of the biggest challenges for me is speaking the truth in love. Sometimes, I take the easy way out with my words. When I'm mad or offended, I just say nothing, but this leads to all kinds of resentment inside me.

Lately, I've been trying to tell people where I stand in disagreements without attacking them personally, and without trying to pick a fight. Tricky tricky. I'm not sure it has done much for my popularity...

Ted M. Gossard said...

Thanks. Yes, good point! We need to listen well not only to others, but to ourselves.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Yes. When one is sick or in pain it is much more difficult to control our tongue for sure! And the kind of pain I go through so far in my life is different than yours, yet I see the same things come out in the midst of it as I'm wrestling through whatever.

Makes Job look all the more better. Look what he went through, and look at his words. Yes, God has to rebuke him in the end, but that is a rich, rich book. And Job seemed to be a man in better control than I am when in pain.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Really good point. When you keep it bottled in, as I think the psalmist said, the fire burns (or maybe that was Jeremiah).

Yes, it does seem like (and from my memory, seems like Dallas Willard makes this point perhaps in "Divine Conspiracy") we live in a society where people feel any disagreement with them is an attack on them personally. But we can't learn or grow if we're not open to correction.

Maybe somehow an indirect approach is better. I don't know. But thinking a bit on this, lately.


Lanny said...

Hmmm been spending a week really watching my tongue, as if it were a separate entity, not to please with it. It has a tendency to be rather careless. Now I have to do something with the information I garnered from this week, bother.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Yes, Lanny. For people like you and I- people who can talk a lot- we especially have to watch our mouths and our hearts.

I am so better off just to work on being silent if I'm in a situation where I am provoked. Or at least to double major on listening well, and speak only with reticence (a challenge most of the time) and slowly, and never with anger. But it's hard never to speak when there isn't some measure of anger and hurt, and it might be more just how we speak during those times, as well as what we say, than abstaining entirely, though the latter option is often good, I suppose.

Just some thoughts. I'm sure you know all of that already, but I'm thinking through this out loud. ha.