Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies. My daughter, who was just five years old, watched while I carefully printed each letter of Psalm 34:13 onto a fluorescent, green poster board. When I finished, she asked me to read the Bible verse we would memorize together during the week. Carefully, I read the words to her. Then she asked, "What does it mean?"
"What do you think it means?" I asked. A repairman working on an ailing appliance in the next room stopped his task to listen.
"Don't stick your tongue out at people," she announced with delighted confidence. It was all the handyman and I could do not to burst out laughing.
Oh, the tongue! I wish it were as easy as not sticking your tongue out at people. From the first day I began my walk of faith, God started to work in this tiny member of my body. Like the layers of an onion, He patiently peeled back one layer at a time of my sinful habits to lie, manipulate, slander and more. Each time I thought we were done and there were no more layers to strip off, the Lord revealed a new one. The most recent layer God worked on is best summed up in James 3:5 says, Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.
It all started, after I received news that made me very sad, extremely upset and, eventually, very angry. In the days that followed, I shared this news with others. The first person I told shared my sadness. The second person I confided in was sad and very upset. The third person was not only sad and upset, but also very angry---more angry than I was. Their reactions made me feel justified in my own. Until, I remembered the "warning" I felt each time I began to tell the story. I knew it was God's Holy Spirit prompting me to stop. But I ignored the check-in-my-spirit that cautioned me to rein in my tongue. I rushed on, past God's finger pressing on my heart, and repeated the story again and again.
I did not sleep well the night I neglected to yield to God's prompting for the third time. In the morning, I knew I was guilty of sparking a small fire each time my little tongue shared the story. And, I realized each spark had the potential to fuel a great fire. I asked Jesus to forgive me and I prayed for the Lord to put out the fires I started with my own tongue. As soon as I did this, I began to see the story I had told in a new light. First, I remembered that every story has at least two sides. (And this story probably had many more) I heard only one very subjective side of the story. Second, I understood the very thing I was so upset about at the time would not matter at all in light of eternity. When we live in heaven one day, the offense and hurt won't matter any more. Andthird, I knew I needed to turn the energy that fueled my emotions and caused me to rehash the story into prayer to the One and Only who knows the whole story and can be at work in hearts, minds and details to redeem it for His glory, honor and praise.
How about you? Does your tongue ever get you into trouble? James 3:7 says, People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. I am so thankful that God does not leave us alone in our own sin nature. Like an onion, lovingly and patiently, God comes to peel off the layers of poison that pour off our tongues. If we listen, His Holy Spirit will warn us to stop before we spark a fire. And, as we yield to His promptings, we can allow God to use this tiny part of us instead to bring good and life and blessing.