Who Will You Bless/Curse Today?
“For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so.” (James 3:7-10)
These words from James were part of one of the lessons in the Episcopal lectionary on November 15. After our recent U.S. presidential campaign, one wonders if all of the candidates could have benefited from meditating on these words... each day... beginning about 18 months ago.
But what is also true is that these are profound words for every single one of us on the planet. The old “Stick and stones... but words will never hurt me” is a really misguided adage. Of course our words can hurt others, and others’ words can damage us. Which one of you doesn’t remember something hurtful that was said to you during your childhood? Perhaps you still lug that message around. (Suggestion: Start telling yourself a new and much better story - today!) Which of you cannot recall a time when your words really hurt another person?
James is absolutely correct. With our tongues we bless and praise the Lord, AND we curse, judge, and condemn those who are made in the likeness of God. From our mouths come blessing and cursing. Indeed, this ought not to be so.
In this time - perhaps especially in this time - how can we make a commitment to using our tongues in ways that convey love, respect, appreciation, gratitude, encouragement, and solidarity with others? In other words, how can we use our words for constructive purposes - to give life, and not to belittle, hate, or destroy?
It is also James who wrote “... let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness.” (James 1:19-20) It seems that in the U.S. these days, we Americans are much more likely to be slow to listen, quick to speak, and quick to anger. Sometimes there seems to be a race going on to see who can go from 0-60 - with 60 being full-on anger - in the shortest amount of time.
Perhaps we can all be “quick to listen” over the next few months, especially seeking to understand those who seem different - or even very different - from us.
Perhaps we can have a contest over the next few months to see who can bless the most people with their words. This contest will not have any proclaimed winners. It is a contest only in the sense of seeing if we can live into Paul’s words: “... love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:10)
Are you interested in entering that contest? I am.