Talkers, Beware!

To all those people who got "talks too much" checked off on their report card in 3rd grade (Don't tell me I'm the only one!), put this on your to-do list: READ James.

"Slow to Speak, Quick to Listen, and Slow to Anger" -James 1:19
Did ya catch that "slow to speak" part? If you were to rate yourself, how would you describe yourself? Slow or quick to speak? Quick or slow to listen? Of course it all depends on the situation, but generally, in life, how would you describe yourself? Full disclosure: I'm often quick to speak and slow to listen. It hurts, but it's the truth. How about you?

Not Many of You Should Become Teachers -James 3:1
Those who teach have greater responsibility and will come under greater judgment, or a special strictness. Curtis Vaughan warns us, "A ready tongue without an informed mind, a devout character, and a holy life will hinder rather than advance the cause of Christ." Recall Jesus' revulsion for the Pharisees? "Brood of Vipers"- does that ring a bell? He described them as people who "don't practice what they teach." Teachers are called to a higher standard, and we ought to keep that in mind before we prattle off lessons.

The Tongue is a Small Thing, But What Enormous Damage it Can Do! -James 3:5
James discusses the power of the tongue throughout his letter, but the emphasis becomes a solitary focus in chapter 3. He compares it to the bit in a horse's mouth (because it controls the body), the rudder of a ship (because it controls the direction of the larger object), and a spark that sets off a forest fire (because it can cause huge damage with just a few "small" sparks). Remember the old "Pass It On" song, circa 1985? "It only takes a spark to get a fire going"... then it says "and soon, all those around can warm up in its glowing." But this verse is not offering a warm and fuzzy view of a spark setting fire... the sparks from our words can cause pain, loss, and even death. Our tongues often control the direction we go in life, and can wreak havoc in our lives and in the lives of anyone else we encounter.

Sometimes it Breaks Out Into Curses Against God's Image Bearers -James 3:10
"A little girl sat with her arms wrapped around her father's neck. But her mother observed that over her father's shoulder, she was sticking out her tongue at her little brother. The mother responded by saying, 'Take your arms from around your father's neck. You cannot love your father and at the same time stick out your tongue at his son.' To profess love for God while reviling men made in His image is a brazen offense against God." Our words ought not praise the God of all Creation and speak ill of His creation at the same time. But we do it all the time. In our post-church commentary or our post-get-together critique of someone we don't particularly care for, it happens, doesn't it? Calvin commented that the person "who truly worships and honors God will be afraid to speak slanderously of man." We show the inconsistency of our character, the lack of maturity we possess, when we curse the creation while attempting to praise the Creator.

Don't Speak Evil Against Each Other -James 4:11
I've never quite thought of it in this way: "Disparaging criticism of others is in fact one of the worst expressions of human pride. The man who indulges in it sets himself above both the person he criticizes and the divine law which forbids it." Speaking evil of another person, an image-barer of God Himself, includes gossip, and literally means to talk down or to talk against another person. Doesn't that make you kind of squirm in your seat? Whether in a private conversation, a pointed comment, or just in our head, speaking evil of another person is sinful. And I think most women, Christian or not, have a real problem in this area.

What You Ought to Say is, "If the Lord Wants Us to" -James 4:15
We must be extremely cautious in the way we speak about the future. In this passage, James describes a person speaks with confidence concerning the time, place, and length of future plans, and he deems such talk "boasting". Our words ought to reflect our awareness of our lack of awareness of the future, as well as our trust in the God Who knows all.

One recurring theme of James is discretion, sincerity, and reverence in our speech. As women following Jesus, our words ought to reflect our faith in Him rather than criticism of others, pride, or a focus on ourselves.

"Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips." Psalm 141:3

*quotes not specified come from Curtis Vaughan's Bible study commentary on James.


Melody said...

Great post. I struggle with talking to much as well..


LisaM said...

Hey, this is great stuff. Thank you for posting.