Before attending a youth ministry trade school back in 1993, there was a series of books I needed to read prior to my first class. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie and Bringing Out the Best in People are the two that I remember the most. Carnegie’s book opened my eyes to practical principles for making friends naturally as well as the art of persuasion. Meanwhile, Bringing Out the Best in People introduced me to the 3 C’s: Don’t criticize, complain or condemn other people. When I began to tame my tongue by steering my words in a positive direction, my life ascended toward greatness. From a personal, social and spiritual perspective, 1993 was the best year of my life.
Now if we put bits into the horses’ mouths to make them obey us, we guide their whole body as well. 4 And look at the ships. Even though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the impulse of the helmsman determines. 5 In the same sense, the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See [by comparison] how great a forest is set on fire by a small spark! – James 3:3-5
In the years that have followed, I have never come close to this level of joy and satisfaction. There have been periods, glimpses of greatness, but each time I quickly came back down to earth. The reason for my fall lies in the tongue. According to Jesus’ earthly brother, the tongue is like a rudder on a ship. When rudders begin to malfunction, ships lose control, going off course. Following a two year stint as a youth pastor, I let my conversation slip, spitting out destructive, harsh and negative comments. The longer I allowed my tongue to be undisciplined, it didn’t take long to descend to some of the lowest points in my life. Like any frustrating moment, human tongues feed off of misery, unleashing vicious thoughts formally kept silent deep inside your mind.
But no one can tame the human tongue; it is a restless evil [undisciplined, unstable], full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God. 10 Out of the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. These things, my brothers, should not be this way [for we have a moral obligation to speak in a manner that reflects our fear of God and profound respect for His precepts], James 3:8-10.
In the passage above, James reveals the danger of the tongue. No matter how disciplined you may be, you can only hope to contain this aspect of your flesh. When you open your mouth, only God knows what will come it. One day you may be filled with blessings; the next followed by curses. James urges first century readers of his letter to consider their moral obligation to God. The words and vocabulary that you choose should reflect a reverence for God. In addition, your mind should be influenced by God’s precepts as you meditate day and night on these principles. Without taking this advice seriously, your conversations will resemble a roller coaster ride, with highs that uplift others and lows that cut to the heart. May this blog challenge you to transform the content of your words in 2019.
by Jay Mankus