Living honorably; Taming the tongue

“If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom.”

James 3:13, NLT

I think that I’m a lot like all of you.  I’m an honorable person. I tend to believe that I am relatively even-keel. That I can keep my cool in the heat of the moment and resolve a stressful situation with a level head and the perfect word of wisdom. That when life throws me lemons, I am ready to make the finest of lemonades.

Wait a minute, that’s not exactly the type of person that I am. I don’t always have the right thing to say, at the right time. I don’t have the perfect scripture verse and the deepest Maya Angelou or Charles Spurgeon quotes ready to go.

Do you sometimes you find yourself flaring up unexpectedly, losing that ‘cool’ that you want to always have, saying something rash that you wish you could take back about five minutes later, re-living the moment over again in your head and handling yourself so much better than when it actually happened? Yeah, me too.

The truth is that most of us struggle with being that honorable person, especially when it comes to choosing what to say, when and how to say it, and more importantly, when to not say anything at all. I know for me; I like to give advice to others about what they “should have said” and what they “could have done instead” to help better their situation.  Then when it comes time for me to step up and say something to improve a situation in my life, I find myself chickening-out or not knowing what exactly should be said. Or in worse situations, lashing out and saying way more than should have been said in order to settle the situation clearly in my favor, finding myself looking like a jerk for getting a little too emotional or using cutting words when more gentler ones would have done much better.

The beginning of James 3 talks about controlling the tongue. James describes and compares the tongue to other small things in our world that make a BIG difference. When compared to other parts of the body, the tongue is small yet, “…no human being can subdue the tongue; it is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse people made in God’s image.” (James 3: 8-9, NET)

Wow. What hope do we have for living honorable lives then, and for controlling these tongues of ours that seem unable to be controlled?  Meaning, if James wants us to “…live an honorable life, doing good works…” (James 3:13, NLT) how are we supposed to do those good works when we are mere moments away from poisoning others with the words that we say?  Well, the rest of that previous verse says this, “doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom.” (James 3:13b, NLT) So it looks like we need two things to live that honorable life we so desire to live: Wisdom and Humility.

Luckily for us the rest of this chapter of James (and honestly the rest of the book of James) talks to us about what wisdom and humility are, and how we make sure to hold onto it:

“For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and plant a harvest of righteousness.”

James 3: 15-18, NLT

True wisdom (the wisdom that comes from God) says that the pride, the jealousy, the ‘me-first’ attitude that rises up when you feel that need to speak-up, and speak-up quickly, all those things are those earthly desires within you coming out. James so much as calls those things “demonic” (vv.15) True wisdom doesn’t act on those human emotions and those human impulses because we know that these are opportunities to produce great joy in us and to grow in our maturity in Christ. (see James 1: 2-4)

Humility then, also grows during those opportunities as we gain wisdom and learn to persevere over our sinful human nature which wants to find hurt and offense in any and every situation.  Humility which comes from Godly wisdom, helps us to not react so quickly with our tongues to say those things we’d wish we hadn’t said. Humility helps us to be “…quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” (James 1: 19, NLT)

If we want to live that honorable life that we know God wants us to live, and if we want to be able and look back on our life and not see so many instances of us putting our foot in our mouth, or using our words to hurt / cut-down / push away others, than we need to be people who are “doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom.” The wisdom and the humility to know that speaking rashly now, doesn’t help us grow closer to the image of Christ that we so desire. Sowing seeds of peace, and then in turn, reaping a harvest of righteousness will be so much more beneficial in the end.

Join me in trying to promote the “humility that comes from wisdom” this week when we are interacting with those around us.  Hopefully we will be living much more honorable lives than we were before, glorifying God in the process by our example.

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