James 3:1-12 - Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.
There are some conversations you walk away from feeling flayed. Someone has used the sharp edge of their tongue on you, deserved or not, and the pain is awful. And it doesn't help when they tell you they're "saying it for your own good." They may truly believe that, but the real-life result is not helpful.
When I think about conversations like that, I want to run and hide. And I feel the same about those conversations that go on behind your back—the gossip that spreads through a church or workplace, sometimes camouflaged as a "prayer request"—but it really serves as a chance for people to share hurtful, juicy details about someone else. Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch! How can such a tiny part of the body do so much harm?
The odd thing is, I don't get that sort of pain from Jesus. Oh, He can say painful things when necessary, but never with the goal of causing pain or doing harm. His goal is always to heal and help. Even if He has to rebuke someone or judge them, it is clear that He is doing it with their best interests in mind—and that He never goes an inch past what is absolutely necessary to say. And if the person repents, He forgives immediately. The conversation is over. Jesus' tongue heals instead of harming.
This is why I feel safe with Jesus. I know that He knows me through and through. I know that He loves me. When He has to correct me, I listen, because I know the heart that speaks through the words. It is the heart of a God who loved me—and you!—enough to lay down His life to rescue us, to draw us close to Him and make us His beloved people forever. This is the heart and tongue of the God who put our welfare before His own, and would do it again a thousand times if necessary. "For He does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone" (Lamentations 3:33 NIV).
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, make my tongue like Yours—full of grace and love. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Kari Vo.
1. Why is it so easy to hurt people with our tongues?
2. Share a time when God used someone's words to comfort, strengthen, or heal you.
3. What part of the Bible do you go to when you need to feel God's love, strength, and comfort?
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