“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Who are we kidding? Why teach children such a universal lie? We’ve all faced situations where we tried to deny the destructive power of words, but we still walked away with pain and scars. With disproportionate power like a horse’s bit or ship’s rudder, the tongue can deliver love or hatred, unity or division, peace or war. No wonder James compared the tongue to a fire! On June 30, 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots from the Prescott (Arizona) Fire Department died in the midst of an insurmountable wildfire. While our hearts go out to families impacted by the destruction of physical flames, we rarely think of the devastation of the tongue. How many lives have been destroyed by the wildfire of the tongue? For how much verbal destruction are you and I personally responsible?
I first heard the term “two-faced” when I was a child. I learned that although people don’t have two faces they sometimes pretend to love people when they don’t. James reminds us that praising the Lord on Sunday doesn’t mean you rightly represent Him on Monday. If we walk by the flesh we will try to convince others of Christ’s Lordship over our lives while simultaneously pursuing the lordship of self. John warned, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20).
When I took voice lessons in college, I learned the value of vocal line. Vocal line means that whether one is singing at the bottom, middle or top of his range his tone quality must be the same. When we face the difficult, ordinary or high times in life, are we displaying a consistent faith? James warns us of the two enemies of spiritual consistency: jealousy and selfish ambition. These enemies will produce disorder and evil, but consistent love produces true wisdom, righteousness and peace. Which fruits are on your tree?