Now James begins to meddle. Taming the tongue. When I was a lad I learned the popular jingle that was supposed to help us resist the onslaught of insults and barbs. You know the jingle, it goes: "sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me." The cold bitter truth is that this jingle is a lie. Although the wounds of "words" may not be visible like being clubbed with a stick or hit with a rock, they are wounds none the less. What we say and how we say it truly matters. With our words we can build up and encourage others or we can tear down and discourage others. With our words we can speak words of blessings or we can curse. The point James makes so poignantly is that both tearing and building, blessing and cursing, should not come from the same source. If we are disciples of Jesus Christ we are children of light and children of day and darkness should not come forth from our lips.
Let me put it another way. In Genesis 12:2 father Abraham is called by God and told that God will bless him "so that you will be a blessing." Abraham was blessed so he could be a blessing. I believe this is the essence of the spiritual life. God does not pour out his blessings TO us but THROUGH us. This being the case we have the opportunity with what we do and what we say to others to speak words of grace and hope and blessing. Could it be possible the ultimate example of a Christan's progress is how they control their language?
We curse others through negative words, through "put-downs", through dismissive language and through gossip. When we speak about others behind their backs with malicious intent that is gossip. All too often, in faith communities, gossip reigns supreme under the disguise of "sharing prayer concerns" and similar forms of sharing. Be careful to not "over share" -- remember that God is omniscient (God already knows everything) and so when I pray for someone I don't need to know all of the intimate details, permutations, possibilities and how it will impact the rest of the known universe. Anything more than pray for Uncle Bob's cancer becomes TMI (too much information) and begins to border on gossip.
Here's a challenge. Try to get through a day speaking a word of blessing (or a prayer of blessing) on everyone you meet. See if we can't clear out the brackish water around our tongues and speak the sweet water words of healing and grace.