In my recent reading of the book of James, I pondered the humbling power of this verse about the mouth: “Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God” (James 3:9 KJV).
As some may know, James writes descriptively about the tongue and how offenses flow from our mouths. However, I really paused to think about the unkind things we say to people—people who are made in the image, or similitude, of God. I stopped to imagine God forming man from the dust of the ground, shaping the hands, feet, and torso of the first human, and breathing life into his nostrils. In Genesis, God made man on the sixth day of Creation, taking considerable time to intentionally pour His likeness and Spirit into mankind.
Afterward, God blessed man and gave him dominion over everything He had created on the previous days.
And with our tongues, we speak degrading curses, profane sayings, and unkind words to mankind that God set aside a day in Creation to make. In essence, James suggests that we are really speaking profanities to God when we disrespect His creation, and the writer continues with a rebuke in the following verse: “these things ought not to be so.” According to Scripture, sweet water and salt water cannot spring from the same fountain. In fact, our religion is in vain if we cannot control our mouths.
Listen, the book of James tells us that the tongue is the most unruly member of our bodies, and that is why it is imperative to give it over to God. When He fills us with His Spirit, God takes control of that member, like the breaking of a horse, and fills our mouths with a heavenly language.
The tongue is something we must DAILY submit to Him.
When people do ungracious things that make us want to say sinful words or commit offenses in our anger, perhaps we should pretend that the person we are speaking to is God—no matter how ungodly he or she might be acting in the moment. God took time to make each and every human being in His image, even the ones who, in our estimation, are the most despicable of people. If we could imagine them as God, I think we would more easily lay down our malicious words and let our tongues be seasoned with grace. God sees something worth loving in that person: parts of Himself, His likeness.
Let’s ask God to teach us how to diffuse situations instead of inciting wars with our tongues. Even when we share the Gospel, we need to know how to approach different people, so the Word of God is not hindered by our own mouths. Taming the tongue does not happen automatically. Sometimes we must let the anger burn, walk away, and return once we have the proper words to say in response. Sometimes we must choose to say nothing at all. We must obey the Holy Ghost when He tells us to be quiet.
This will help us learn how to speak more graciously to all people who are made in the image of God, and it will make us look a lot more like Him when we look in the mirror of His Word.