Curses and Blessings
By Daphne Delay
When my oldest son was around two, I would put him in the bathtub each morning to keep a close eye on him while getting ready for work. One day he asked if he could play with his new ship my husband had bought him the day before. I said yes, and he was quite entertained for a while.
As I sleepily sipped my coffee and put on mascara, Benjamin said something about his toy. Half-listening and focused more on my make-up than my son, I said, "Oh yea, that's a great boat..."
Quickly correcting me, he said, "Da-da says it's a ship."
"That's right," I said (not really knowing the difference). A couple minutes later, my talkative toddler said something else about his toy and without thinking, I again said, "Hmmm.... yes that's a nice boat..."
A second time, my son said, "It's a ship."
Glancing at his reflection in the mirror while continuing my routine, I said, "Oh yeah that's right..."
Believe it or not, a few minutes later, this happened a third time—Benjamin telling me about his toys and me half-awake answering him with, "That's a great boat..."
But this time, he yelled, "MOM!" I quickly turned around only to see my son holding his toy up and looking at me with frustration as he said, "Can you say SHIP?"
The Bible says, "The tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles!" (James 3:5, NKJV)
My exchange with my son is quite small in comparison to some of the firestorms that have started with just a few words. Countries go to war and couples go to divorce court over mere words. The tongue is a weapon, that's for sure. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can set off a virtual forest fire.
By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it. This is scary:
"You can tame a tiger, but you can't tame a tongue - it's never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women He made in His image. Curses and blessings out of the same mouth!" (James 3:7-10, Message)
I still don't know the difference between a boat and a ship, other than one is small and used for fishing and waterskiing, while the other is much bigger and usually found on the ocean. But I could know their differences if I chose to study them. In the same way, if I care about the things that defile my life and grieve the Holy Spirit, I can learn.
The Bible says, "He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit" (1 Peter 3:10, NKJV).
I may not be able to perfectly tame my tongue, but I can choose my words. Jesus said it starts with what we put in our heart:
"For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matthew 12:34, NKJV).
As God's Word becomes a priority in my life, one benefit is the overflow from my heart to my mouth.
"He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit" (Proverbs 17:27, NKJV).
If I'd had more knowledge on "ships" I wouldn't have upset my young son. Likewise, as I gain understanding about the tongue and the various ways it defiles, I am less likely to be the cause of strife. My words can be vain, irritating, hasty, irreverent, insincere, proud, and malicious; OR my words can be modest, helpful, sincere, respectful, humble, and kind. And like the fierce winds that oppose a ship on the open sea, I can use the rudder in my mouth to maneuver peacefully through tough conversations or perceived attacks.
So, although I'm bound to be careless with my words at some point or another, it's what I choose to keep in my heart that keeps me from recklessly starting a fire. I am the vessel and my tongue is the blade that adjusts my direction. Can you say SHIP?
Printed with permission, Daphne Delay © 2010
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Daphne Delay is the founder of Mirror Ministries in Seminole, Texas. She is the author of Facing the Mirror: Finding a Self to Live With. She blogs nuggets of spiritual growth encouragement every week at mirrorministries.org on the subjects of faith, purpose, and self. You can also catch her weekly podcast at identityadvantage.org.
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