But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.
Psychologists have estimated that we have 700 opportunities to speak every week; with those opportunities, we construct 12,000 sentences, speak up to 50,000 words, and author a 150-page book. Did you get that? — every week! That is an astounding number!
But there is a great danger unexpressed in this statistic. If James says that our mouth is “full of deadly poison,” and we are opening our mouth 700 times a week, imagine how much damage is spewed forth without our even realizing it!
In America we are constantly reminded of our right to “free speech,” but this rightis never given to us in Scripture. Rather, the Bible warns us of the danger of using our words flippantly. James 1:26 says, “If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless.”
In other words, James is saying that the 700 words we speak every week are indicators of our walk with Christ. If we are claiming to love God, yet all the while poisoning our brothers with thoughtless, cruel, or malicious words, we are only deceiving ourselves.
This story graphically illustrates the danger of speaking careless words. A young man living in ancient Greece had said something very harsh to one of his friends, later discovering that what he had said wasn’t true. He went to his wise teacher and asked, “Master, I hurt my neighbor with my words; what can I do to right this wrong?” His teacher said, “Find a sack and fill it with feathers. Tonight after everyone has retired, go around the village and put a feather on each doorstep.”
The young man was confused but obeyed the master’s command. When he had finished and returned to his home, he lay in bed and pondered the meaning of the task. Tossing and turning all night, he could not make sense of it. The next morning he ran to his teacher and declared, “Master, I’ve done what you’ve said. Now what do I do?”
His teacher responded, “Get your sack, go back to each doorstep — and retrieve every feather.” The young man retorted, “That is impossible! There is no way I can retrieve every feather. The wind has come during the night, people have been walking, animals have been moving, and the feathers will have been scattered by now.”
The teacher then explained, “The same is true with your words. They were very easy to speak, but they are impossible to retrieve.”
Fifty thousand words a week; 200,000 words a month; 2,400,000 words a year — that is the number of “feathers” we scatter, sometimes without thinking how far they will drift. We must develop the habit of thinking and praying before speaking, or we may deceive ourselves and destroy others around us.
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