Today is the final day of our 23rd week, reading the Bible through together in a year. Our scriptures today are: Proverbs 14-15; Romans 14.
Since our move, there are two things that simply need to happen. First, my daughter Lydia needs to get on a horse. She loves to ride, but hasn't ridden in a couple of years. Some of the folks in our new church have horses, and Lydia is itching to get on one. The second thing that needs to happen is that I must get on a boat ASAP! I grew up canoeing, and love the water. I haven't been on a boat since last Autumn, and I miss the gentle (or not-so-gentle) rock of a boat on water. Now that we're down here so closr to Buggs Island Lake, there's no excuse!
Jesus' half-brother James says that horses and boats have two things in common: they are both controlled by something small. A large horse is governed by a tiny bit and bridle; a great ship's course is set by a small rudder. In the same way, our tongues are small organs, but they have tremendous power for good or for evil in our lives. Speaking of the tongue, James 3:9-10 says:
With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.I have seen so much damage done in relationships, families, friendships, and churches, all through the power of the tongue. This is why James describes the tongue as It is "a restless evil, full of deadly poison (3:8)."
Today's passage in Proverbs contains many reminders that we need to tame our tongues. Here are a few of those proverbs:
Proverbs 14: 3 By the mouth of a fool comes a rod for his back, but the lips of the wise will preserve them.
5 A faithful witness does not lie, but a false witness breathes out lies.
25 A truthful witness saves lives, but one who breathes out lies is deceitful.
15:1 A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. 2 The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly.
4 A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.
18 A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.
23 To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is!
26 The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the LORD, but gracious words are pure.
28 The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.
The author of Proverbs reminds us that the problem isn't really in our tongues--it's in our hearts.
Proverbs 14:29-30 says, "Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly. A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy but envy makes the bones rot."
Jesus' teachings involved a change in outward behavior, but He really emphasized a change of heart, that would result in changed lives. Paul applied Jesus' teachings when he taught people in the church how to deal with one another. In Romans 14:1, 4, 10, and 19, Paul writes:
As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions...Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
Today in your quiet time with Jesus, I hope you'll consider how your words can hurt, and how they can heal. I pray that God's Holy Spirit will find you a willing vehicle for blessing, and that you, like St. Francis, might pray, "Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace."