Is there a more ridiculous nursery rhyme than this one–‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me’? Who are they kidding? Why is it that I still remember name-calling from over 60 years ago? Like the word ‘hunker’. Yes, that was one nickname hurled at me by friends across the street. All because I was chunky and flabby. Still am.
Bones heal. Name-calling lasts a lifetime. James, the half-brother of Jesus, the biological son of Joseph and Mary, raises red flags about the toxicity of what leaks out of our mouths.
James 3: 6–‘The tongue…is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.’ No beating around the bush. ‘Mr. In-Your-Face’ pulls no punches. Can’t miss the point. Bulls-eye.
I cringe thinking of what I’ve said with a tongue that gave little indication that I’m one in Christ. What I thought was funny yet wasn’t. What I imagined was clever turned out to be twisted and hurtful. Words and names I can never take back. You can’t either.
James issues dire warnings about the tongue. I wonder why? Maybe, just maybe, he remembers growing up with Jesus and what came from his lips to Jesus’ ears. When his mouth was too big for his britches.
Jesus Himself says this–‘…only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor’ (Mark 6: 4). From His family comes everything but respect and gratitude. This includes brother James, who no doubt remembers and regrets.
Or when Jesus and His disciples are mobbed, shoved and pushed around, that this is recorded–“When his (Jesus) family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind'” (Mark 3: 21). Jesus must be nuttier than a fruitcake. Out of His cotton-pickin’ gourd. Unstable on the best of days. My, what a great family of yayhoos!
Maybe James remembers his wagging tongue. Think so? Not bad to wander back, asking forgiveness. Always bringing our sins to the Lord. He’s able to handle them. Forgive…and forget. Maybe that’s why James wrote with such fervor and vehemence. As if giving himself a tongue-lashing. Knowing that his brother probably wouldn’t.
By the way, note the prayer below. It’s mine. Yours as well?
Lord, give me restraint, guarding what I say. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.