1 Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2 Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way. 3 We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. 4 And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. 5 In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. 6 And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. 7 People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, 8 but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. 9 Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. 10 And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! 11 Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? 12 Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring.
If I had to pick the thorn in my flesh during my early college years, of all the things I struggled with the one that haunted me the most was it’s this one. I did a lot of stupid things in college but the one thing I had the hardest time shaking because for a long time I didn’t even realize how bad of a problem it was is this one: diarrhea of the mouth. I used cuss words uncontrollably, took God’s name in vein like it was going out of style, and spoke to people in very cruel ways with the specific intent to hurt them with words as deeply as I could. The issue was out of hand. If I claimed to be a follower of Christ how could I use the language that I used and say the things I said without even realizing.
James 3 became the first passage that I studied until I had it memorized. I literally read this chapter day after day for what I remember to be a semester. By committing God’s word to my heart and by His grace was I able to break this hurtful habit. I began to realize how powerful words are and the impact they have on other’s lives. I also learned that if I said I was one thing, but acted in complete contradiction to that, I was a hypocrite.
I thank God for His grace and forgiveness in this area of my life and for the strength He has given me through James’ words to live beyond the temptation to speak in a sinful manner. I have also come to identify one of the reasons I think the sin was such a struggle for me. I have been affirmed that I have the spiritual gift of affirmation, or encouragement. God has blessed me with the ability to build people up and make them feel good about themselves. It only makes sense that the devil would hone in on this area of my life. If this is where God has gifted me to make an impact for His Kingdom, then it only makes sense that the devil would do everything he could to inhibit that ability and tempt me constantly to stumble in this area.