A pastor decided to do something about the gossips who lived in his town, so he began writing down every piece of gossip that came his way. After 14 months, he had pages of notes in tiny writing—end to end, they made almost 3 metres of gossip. So he decided to set aside one Sunday of the month for a public reading—omitting the names of the victims, but giving the names of the gossips, so everyone would know who they were.
I can’t say how long that pastor lasted in his church—maybe he made it past his Sunday of reading the names of all the gossips, or maybe not! But his story certainly highlights the problem of taming our tongues.
At times the tongue might seem like the worst member of the church. It can be rude and over-bearing. It can spread gossip and discouragement. It can damage a person’s reputation, throw a pall over a good mood, and snuff out a creative idea like a tarp that smothers everything underneath it. As James 3:1-12 warns, the tongue can be just as destructive as fire, as deadly as poison.
At the same time, the tongue is one of the most active members of the church. It’s present at every service of worship, every community event—everywhere and any time that people get together. It’s active in public settings, and works even harder behind the scenes. By its regular attendance and participation alone, the tongue might be the best member of the church.
What’s more, the tongue can praise God and share good news with others. It can bring comfort and healing. It can teach and provide wise counsel. It can encourage, uplift, and inspire. It can play an essential role in building good relationships.
As strongly as James 3:1-12 warns against the untamed tongue, the verses are just as clear that the tongue can help set a positive direction for our lives much like a rudder steers a large ship.
Our challenge then is to use our tongues in constructive and life-giving ways, to set a positive direction:
- Instead of complaining, what if you and I would encourage someone today?
- Instead of speaking sharply or with impatience, what if you and I would say a kind word?
- Instead of spreading the latest juicy gossip, what if you and I would share good news?
By God’s grace, what if we would turn the tongue into one of the best members of the church instead of one of the worst?
May the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.