MySpiritualAdvisor.com’s Mark Kurowski reflects on how we can use our tongue for more than just getting what we want or bullying people. What can take the place of all the bad things that come out of our mouths? Listen to this podcast of his reflection for the 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time. Please read James James 3:1-12.
For MySpiritualAdvisor.com, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, September 16, 2012, the Twenty Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read James 3.1-12.
Sirach, one of the wisdom books of the Old Testament, says,
“As you fence your property with thorned bushes, so make a door and a bolt for your mouth. (Sirach 28.24a-25b)”
I want to remind us that the focus of the Epistle of St. James is life after we have been baptized and have begun to respond to Christ’s calling for our lives. The primary question is this, “How do we respond to God’s grace in light of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our sins?”
There was a defining moment in my life that I want to tell you about. It was a break through moment for a young man. It was a moment when we young men say, “Aha! Life is so much easier when I use the right tool for the job!”
With that moment comes the more mature moment that says that it is worth spending the money to buy the proper tools to make the job look like it is as sturdy as it really is. There are some of us that get this concept from our fathers. There are some of us men who get this concept after gouging our knuckles a few times. There are those of us who never get it and ought to have our tool boxes taken away.
But today, James addresses much the same issue. This passage answers the question, “What is the proper use of the tongue for the Christian?” Just like using our tools for the wrong job, we use our tongues to curse or gossip, or spread lies and rumors of lies. Why is that?
I think that we are still caught in several things. First, we are caught up in ourselves. We are still using the same language that we used before we responded to God’s calling for our lives. We don’t greet each other like Christians. We use the common greetings of the world, not the common greetings of the faith. So, when we don’t use the common greetings of the faith like “God Bless You,” “Peace,” “Sister/Brother,” or “The Lord Be With You, Friend,” we have nothing to remind us of who we are and Whose we are.
We forget that we are to be instruments of God here on earth. We have been called to live a different life with a different perspective than everyone else. We serve the Father of Lights who is the giver of all good gifts. We sometimes forget that we are to be a gift to each other.
We also forget that we understand that God is the creator of all things–that includes all people–those who serve him and those who do not serve him. That is why even those who don’t serve Him, those who sin against us, deserve the utmost respect. They deserve our respect because we respect God and all that he has made. He has made all humans, those who deserve our love and those who do not. We show our love for God by loving all people, those we would love to hate and those we love to love. St. James says it this way,
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. (3.9-10).
When I think of St. James’ admonition about the tongue I am reminded that I myself struggle with this from time to time. I struggle because I am a passionate man whose passion burns within me until it burns my bones to the point that I feel I must speak. But thinking back on that passion, I think I regret more than anything the hard and harsh things I have said to my mother, children and spouse over the years. If I could walk back in time, I wish I could have remembered my love for God and remembered my love for the gifts he has given me in my wife and children.
I, too, sometimes forget that my spouse and my children are NOT the enemy. They are the blessing that God has given me. I have to remember that my wife didn’t marry me because she wanted to be my mother or disciplinarian, she married me because she wanted to be my partner. I can trust her. There is no reason for me to strike back at her with a sword-like tongue. We are not only on the same side, but she is a creation of God. Out of my passion for the Lord, I ought to hold my tongue, to honor Him–no matter how I feel.
St. James says again,
Like (a bit in a horses mouth) the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts…It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.(James 3.5 and 6)
Ooh! There is that word! “H”, “e” double hockey sticks! Let’s get away from that!
Wait a minute. If we were to remember that the nasty thing that is about to come out of our mouth is set on fire by hell, then maybe that would stop us in our tracks from saying the nasty thing that is about to come out. What if we were to remind ourselves that anger is an emotion of sin and hell?
I think part of the problem for Bob Knight is that we men are basically taught two emotions by our culture. They are “that’s cool,” and “get out of the way, I am going to bust the door down!” As we read through the Gospels we discover that Jesus had many emotions. One of them was righteous indignation, but there were many others, among them was compassion. As we learn that there is a whole menu of ways to feel and think in the grace of God, we can enjoy being a newborn Child of God more and move anger to the bottom of the menu.
Sandi one time volunteered us to spend one weekend a month with a child from the lower level security juvenile center. The child we were assigned, Tony, had spent a lifetime being told he was worthless. Tony believed it. The highest mountain he needed to climb was the worthlessness he felt from being told he was worthless.
We believe, along with our Hebrew ancestors, that words have a power in them. That is why the “Word was made flesh” is powerful. It is also why the Gerasene Demoniac asks Jesus, “What is your name?” To know someone’s name was thought to have power over them. It is also why it is important to choose a good name, rich in faith, for our children.
We as Christians do not believe that “Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words will never hurt us.” We believe that we have a more powerful Word than that of those who use words to hurt us. Jesus Christ is the Word that should come from our tongue. He is the love that should flow from our hearts.
Where there is discord we can sow peace by using our tongue as an instrument for God. We can tell people how He has blessed us. We can tell others how we know that he has been good to us through creation, redemption and sanctification.
When was the last time we looked at each other and said something kind? When was the last time we purposely got up and found something to praise about each other? Look around you today during your day at work, school, in class, with your family, with the people in your residence hall. You are required to find at least one thing about one person that you can compliment–even if it is just something like, “I am glad you are here today”–you must compliment someone.
Then every day for the next week, you need to greet another Christian with a Christian greeting. “God Bless you,” “Peace,” “The Lord be with you, brother/sister.”
So, go, my friends, whom I love with the deepest of loves. Go and speak the kind words of God this week and have the tongue tamed by Jesus Christ. Amen? Amen.
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