Today I’m writing about a teaching that I myself am sorely in need of. As I continue to ask the Lord to search my heart and bring forth areas in need of repentance, my thought-life comes into sharp focus. For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:24). We are told to “Be careful what you think because your thoughts run your life.” (Proverbs 4:23). When we have known deep pain in the cause of life, it’s easy to let resentment or even bitterness encrust our hearts. Thankfully, that hasn’t been the case. I have always had a spirit of forgivingness, never being able to keep a record of wrongs for any meaningful period of time. This has allowed me to keep everyone that hurt and/or betrayed me in my life, which presents a great opportunity for healing (just setting a boundary isn’t healing). As they come and go in my life, I sometimes find myself brooding, mulling things over my head, wondering how people can be so vile, so very evil, then gently reminding myself that it isn’t them as much as it’s the devil working through them. Then the Holy Spirit will gently remind me that I too have been forgiven much, and that to whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48). Imagine if Jesus were to come back only to find me holding grudges when he himself has already forgiven all of our sins; I’d hate for that to happen!
Which is where the tongue comes in, expressing the contents of the heart… I find it such a betrayal, a snitch as it were! Genesis 1:11 tells us that a tree can only bear fruit according to its kind. Jesus himself says in Luke 6:44-45 that “Each tree is recognized by its own fruit…..a good man produces good things stored up in his heart, similarly, the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” And beloved, I can tell you that I am struggling with some of the contents of my heart pouring out through my mouth. You see, I sometimes find myself spewing this resentment whenever I get the chance, opportunities of which I’m trying to limit as I only ever speak to a handful of people, but that tongue can wag quite a bit! Even as I hear the Holy Spirit whisper for me to reign it in, I still struggle, often running every redlight until I am spent!
It is in this context that I found myself in my prayer closet this morning, praying for the Lord to forgive me and straighten out the sullied corners of my heart. I doubt that I can live my life playing hide and seek with temptation, the only way is to master it. God to Cain: “if you refuse to do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires you, but you must master it” Genesis 4:7. We can mask it or we can go on an excavation to get to the bottom of it. We can put a bandaid over it or we can perform surgery and clean the area really well to avoid re-infection. Coincidentally, this morning in my prayer closet, I decided to read through the book of James (Jacob) in my TLV bible version. I had in mind the ubiquitous 1:22-25 verses that talk about being a doer of the word and not just a hearer. But what I discovered instead is several verses targeting the issue of the tongue. Friends, God knows where to lead us if we ask him to. Verse after verse, I sat under the watchful eye of my Rabboni to absorb the Truth he was revealing to me into my spirit.
3:6 The tongue is a fire, a world of evil placed among our body parts, polluting the whole body and setting on fire the course of life. 3:5 The tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things, so small a fire sets ablaze so great a forest! 3:8 No human being can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. These verses tell us the harm the tongue can cause. That something so tiny and seemingly insignificant can create such huge rifts in relationships is cause for pause. The tongue is no joke. With it we bless God and with it, we curse men made in the image of God, 3:9 admonishes. 3:11 A spring does not pour out fresh and bitter water from the same opening, does it?.. Neither can salt water produce fresh water.
This contrast justifies the chastising in these verses; for indeed how can bitter water and fresh water come from the same source?! 1:26 If anyone thinks he is religious and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is futile. Now we’re talking about issues of salvation, weightier matters of eternal life. How can one miss heaven for the small matter of bridling the tongue? Isn’t it better to perhaps cut it off to mute the vitriol..? Is it not Jesus that said if your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out? For it’s better to lose a member of your body than for your whole body to be cast into hell (Matthew 5:29). Yet, on the other hand, Jesus said just thinking about something is akin to doing it (Matthew 5:27-28), so that really wouldn’t resolve the issue concerning the contents of my heart –O wretched man that I am…
In light of this, my only solution is to keep waking up in the wee hours every morning, coming to the throne room of grace and placing my heart before my father, asking him to give me a new heart that’s soft, tender, and responsive to him (Ezekiel 36:26). I shall do my part by yielding to God’s transformation by the renewing my mind (Romans 12:2) so that Christ can sanctify me, cleansing me by the washing with water through the word, so I can be without a spot, stain, wrinkle, or any other blemish on that last day (Ephesians 5:26-27).
4:11 Do not speak evil against one another brethren… who are you to judge? 5:9 Do not grumble against one another so that you may not be judged. I hate to be tarnished by anything evil. I hate how sin feels. “The things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts…” Matthew 15:18. My skin crawls even as I murmur, or criticize, or gossip, or complain –wretched man that I am… 4:17 Whoever knows the right thing to do and does not do it, for him it is sin. O Lord, cleanse my heart. Help me pay more attention to what I put before my eyes and ears, for that is how sin enters the heart. Help me to heed your spirit every time you whisper to me to bridle my tongue. 3:2 If someone does not stumble in speech, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well. Make me this perfect man you speak of. In Jesus’ name, Amen.