If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. James 1:26
Two boys on the school playground were discussing a classmate. One of them remarked, "He's no good at sports."
The other quickly responded, "Yes, but he always plays fair."
The critical boy tried a different tack: "He isn't very smart in school either."
His friend answered, "That may be true, but he studies hard."
The boy with the spiteful tongue was becoming exasperated with the way the conversation was going. "Well," he sneered, "did you ever notice that he never wears clothes that are cool?"
The second lad kindly replied, "Yes, but did you ever notice, he doesn't seem to need the newest and best to be cheerful? He seems happier than most of us."
The conversation went on for a while that way. Every negative observation was countered by a positive comment.
Now if this was a parable, and it is, I would ask which of the two boys on the playground is most like you?
* Are you the one who defends others, or are you the one who criticizes?
* Are you the one who builds people up, or the one who tears them down?
* Are you the one who puts the best construction on everything, or are you the person whose construction is pretty slipshod?
Now I know your mother told you, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." And I know Luther told us to say "everything in the kindest way." But do we do what has been suggested to us, or is our conversation filled with criticism and complaints about others?
I wish I could answer all those questions in a way which makes me look good. I can't. Odds are you probably can't either. This is why we need to, in the words of James, "bridle our tongues." Tongue-bridling is a good thing for many reasons. First, it helps and builds up others. Second, it helps us see the world and each other in a positive light, and most of all it reflects positively on our Savior.
James knows that the Christian witness of many of God's people has been rendered useless because their tongues were polluted. It is a habit he encourages us to avoid. In that I agree. I would hate to have someone not show up in heaven because I got careless with my conversation.
This is why today's devotion encourages us to refrain from "evil speaking" and asks that we be "kind to one another" (see Ephesians 4:31-32). Rather than contributing to the spirit of criticism, let us be known as those who do their best to cancel it.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, it seems like my tongue is so small it ought to be easily controlled. That is the way it seems, but the reality is different. It is far too easy for me to shoot the verbal arrows, to unleash the thunderous tirade against others. For this forgive me. And now I ask that You will not just create a new heart in me, but You will also give me a new tongue. In Jesus' Name, I ask it. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries