James 3:5-6 – 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.
In today’s reading, I have my own personal rebuke from the Lord, one to which I will do well to listen. Of course, this chapter opens with the reminder that not many of us should presume to be teachers, because teachers will be subject to a stricter judgment (James 3:1). Then, just in case my heart is not already recognizing my own weaknesses, the word of God calls to mind the way that we might sin with our mouths.
How easy it is to sin with idle words. How easy it is to join in a conversation that is just a touch too silly, too cynical, too cruel, too crude, too abrasive, too winy, too close to gossip, etc. It is so simple to think that we are never the ones guilty. It is so simple to think that, when we talk in evil ways about others, we are seeking the greater glory of the kingdom, but when others enter into the same sort of conversation, we think of them as gossips, trouble-makers, and harmful to the church.
If these thoughts convict you as they convict me, then it is time to join with me in repentance. We must not allow ourselves to be dragged down by our own tongues. We must not allow our own lives and ministries to suffer because we speak with pride. We must not dishonor God by joining in conversations that serve no godly purpose and which do not result in the bettering of the church. This is not to say that no conversation can ever contain an analysis of needs for change. However, if we are not working as instruments of that change, we need to be careful not to be stirrers of strife instead of makers of peace.