Sticks and Stones

The book of James was written by Jesus’ brother (foster brother). It is one of the most practical of all the New Testament books. It has been said that James knew Jesus extremely well and was able to take the teachings of Jesus and make them relatable to the common human experience. I personally agree.  This passage is taken from James chapter 2 verses 3 through 12. 

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

I have been reminded recently of the importance of words. The spoken word is extremely powerful. And just like toothpaste that has left the tube, once the words are spoken, there is no going back. 

The transforming work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer was the chief theme of John Wesley’s life and work, and a distinctive contribution the Methodists make to the rest of the church. Wesley had a four-fold dictum: “All people need to be saved from sin; all people can be saved from sin; all people can know they are saved from sin; and all people can be saved to the uttermost.” It is that latter that Wesley particularly emphasized. He called it “going on to perfection.” He didn’t mean a sinless kind of moral perfection, not a perfection in knowledge, but a perfection in love. The single identifying mark of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives is love. Do we love God and do we love one another? That’s the test of our sanctification.

Wesley was always deeply disturbed when he saw people who trusted in their own righteousness, and consequently, showed little evidence of the growing presence of God’s love in their lives. Once while he was preaching, he noticed a lady in the congregation who was known for her critical attitudes toward others. All through the service she stared at his tie, with a frown on her face. At the end of the service, she came up to him and said very sharply, “Mr. Wesley, the strings on your bow tie are much too long. It offends me.” Wesley immediately asked for a pair of scissors, and when someone handed them to him, he gave them to the woman and said, “Then by all means, trim it to your satisfaction.” She did so, clipping off an inch or so from each side. “Are you sure they’re all right now,” he asked, and she replied, “Yes, that’s much better.”

“Then let me have the scissors for a moment,” Wesley said, “for I’m sure you won’t mind a bit of correction either. I do not wish to be cruel, madam, but your tongue offends me — it is too long. Please stick it out so that I may trim some of it off.” Needless to say, this critic got the point.

Now God may not take a pair of scissors to our tongue, but for some of us, that may be the part of us where he chooses to begin his sanctifying work, for it is one of the things by which we give most offense and sin against love. But whether it’s our tongue or our ambition or our lust or our prejudice or our materialism or our pride or our self-righteousness, or whatever else our besetting sin may be, God will not be content until Christ’s image is perfectly formed in us, and that is why he will never leave us as he finds us. 

In the parlance of today, we need to filter what we say. The early church fathers and mothers had a practice which is still relevant for us today….Is it kind? Is it necessary? Is it true? If it doesn’t fit that criteria, it is better to not say it. 

Dallas Willard used to say….”If you wonder why people don’t listen to you, it may be a result of you talking too much. Talk less and you will discover that people listen to you more!”

One comment

  1. Love this — a lot of meaning in this brief read. Thank you!

    Comment by Jan Mead on October 30, 2019 at 8:14 pm