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 person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
James 3:5-6 (NIV)
Scripture says that our mouths tell on us constantly. The tongue is a sure gauge of our level of insecurity and discontentment. I have had two vivid examples of that this week. One was in a forum in which some individuals used their tongues to voice mean-spirited, discouraging, and disparaging comments over a matter we were asked to give input to. I am for everyone having the freedom to disagree with one another, but it has to be done in a spirit of love and compassion. Not with the attitude of "I win, you lose." No one wins that way. We can say how we see a matter if we are careful that our words are clothed in compassion and kindness. I have found it so helpful to run my motives for pointing out another's faults through the grid of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:
4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Is that my motive when I open my mouth in confrontation to someone else? Or do I have an agenda to wound, to hurt, to be rude, and self-seeking? If that is true, I NEED TO KEEP MY MOUTH SHUT! We seldom understand the great harm Satan does through our words, even if we feel we have every right to say them. And always, I must ask myself, How would I want someone else to confront me? I know I want to walk away feeling respected. Rebuke has its place, but we must be so careful that we always remember that we, too, have blind spots.
Yesterday, my son received an unprovoked, mean comment from a younger child who had no reason to say anything to him except to get attention. I can hardly think of a more dangerous way for the enemy to come against someone who is already discouraged than to hear more discouragement from a random source. Because there was no history between Chase and this person, he faced the decision to believe that the words must somehow be true (thinking that a stranger wouldn't make a rude comment to him unless there was a reason to do it) or to become bitter and not want to serve this person in the future. We had a discussion about this around the table. One of the most incredible verses I came across writing Living With Unmet Desires is from Psalm 140:5:
Proud men have hidden a snare for me; they have spread out the cords of their net and have set traps for me along my path.
A net has been laid down by the enemy and our unanswered hurts caused by the tongues of others. This net has the power to trap us in resentment, anger, and discouragement. We must be so careful to encourage someone, not be one who spreads a trap of discouragement with our tongues. The question I must ask myself today is am I going to control the raging fire that my tongue can so easily start or let it burn others in my pursuit to be right or have the last word?
Jesus, help me! My tongue is the barometer of my desire to obey You. Please keep me from burning others with its deadly fire.