Like trying to put toothpaste back in the tube after squeezing it out, words are things we wish we could take back sometimes, but can’t. I remember once back when I was a teenager and I worked as a stock clerk in a department store. We had a manager there that nobody liked, and behind his back he was the target of some of our cruelest comments. I remember one time so vividly, where I was in the break room imitating him, and then finished off with the snarky comment “I want to be just like him when I grow up.”. It was sarcastic and mean spirited and it got a great laugh from everyone in the room.
Later that day the manager I was lampooning asked me to do something, and just as I was leaving he said “I hope I’m not like you when I grow up.”. My blood froze. I didn’t turn around to look at him or acknowledge what he said, but just the way he said it I knew someone hadn’t ratted me out; he had heard my remarks himself. Most likely he was outside the break room and heard me…heard the laughter as well. That moment has had a lasting impression on me – and I wish I could say that it changed my speech habits from then on. It didn’t. I’ve had plenty of words to regret since then…but that’s not going to stop me from a determination to control my words in a way that cooperates with what God is up to.
Language is such a powerful gift that God has given us, and James puts the focus on our speech habits in the passage we’ll be reading this Sunday, James 3:1-012.
Why do you think James gives this warning to teachers just before he challenges us on how we communicate with each other?
Like most of James’ writing, it needs very little explanation (I’ve been wondering lately if the best way to teach James would be to read the passage out loud, then sit in silence for about 10 minutes and let everyone absorb it). What ways have you experienced the destructive power of words? How have you felt when words were used against you? How have you felt when you realized your words were the problem?
V9-12 are very interesting to me. I’ve often had this presented to me as “if your words are rotten, your heart is rotten too!”. But I’m not exactly sure that’s what James is saying. He’s using pictures of contradiction. How can lemons be growing on apple tree? The New Testament picture of a believer’s heart is one of redemption. If any man is in Christ he’s a new creation, the old stuff is gone, all things are new. If we consider that salvation and redemption mean our inner person has been renewed, even though we have to struggle with old habits and patterns from our old lives – does that effect how we read v9-12? I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts.
This is a challenging section of Scripture….be prepared to wrestle this Sunday! Also, it’s Surf-N-Grill time again! If you haven’t been baptized and want to make that commitment this Sunday, come see me between 1st and 2nd service in the coffee house and let’s talk about it!