And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, … and it is set on fire of hell. James 3:6 A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. Proverbs 25:11
Ever been tempted to say the wrong thing? In the passion of emotion, words burst from your mouth that you immediately wish you could retract? Or hyperbole characterizes your speech? Or could it be that you can’t resist having the last word in an argument? How many ways can we offend with the tongue—a member “set on fire of hell.”
Do you remember the Jewish fable of the gossip who was taken to the top of a mountain along with his feather pillow? He was told to cut the pillow open and to shake it in the wind. Strong gusts carried the feathers near and far, and then the fellow’s rabbi told him to pick up the feathers. Of course, the man cried out that it would be impossible to find every feather. “And that’s just like the words that come from your mouth,” said the rabbi. The wind carries them hither and thither, and they can never be retrieved.
And then there are words of love and affirmation, of approval and admiration, of support and encouragement, and any number of words that bless. Those words are like “apples of gold in settings of silver.” We all love to hear these kinds of words.
Amy Carmichael, missionary to India, had a little test (she called this the three sieves) for conversation: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? Some things may be true or they may be kind but may be totally unnecessary to repeat. This last sieve may be the most difficult test to pass as it seems so easy to pass on information about another person that others don’t need. That especially applies to truth that would be hurtful if freely divulged.
But how wonderful to be able to shower someone with words that bless and lift. They don’t have to be profound or abundant. Just a few heartfelt words can make a person’s whole day—or bring healing to a broken spirit.
Let’s try, just for this day, to hand out “apples of gold” and then, tomorrow, to do the same thing until kind, true, and necessary words become our habit.
Father, it’s so easy to offend with the tongue. Help us to guard our words so that what comes from our lips blesses the hearer and brings joy to the heart. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.