For those of you who have joined us for this journey through James, we are in chapter three this week. I hope that last week was powerful for you. That you felt encouraged to change the way you view others. This week James shifts from addressing our actions, to calling us out in the ways we use our words. He understands clearly what a dangerous tool the words of our mouths can be. “And so blessing and cursing come out of the same mouth.” (James 3:10) He goes even further and equates the pain we can inflict with our words to the tragedy of an unrestricted roaring fire. If our words are left unchecked, they can, “set your whole life on fire.” (vs. 6)
As I reflected on the power of my words, I was reminded of an experience from my freshman year of high school. I was fourteen and had cautiously joined a “small group” with a handful of other freshman guys. We weren’t too sure what being a part of the group would mean, but we liked Phil, our Campus Life Director, and figured it couldn’t hurt to hang together. In retrospect, I should have given more thought to the “hurt” part.
Each week our little group would meet to pray, listen to a small “lesson” from Phil then end up wrestling and beating the tar out of each other. We were after all teenage boys. One week though, Phil brought our attention to James chapter three. He called us out on the words we were using and the impact those words were having on those around us. For a room full of unruly adolescent boys, it was a sobering moment. I felt a strong conviction to change my language. For some reason I had fallen into the habit of cussing around my guy friends. This didn’t seem like a big deal. Most of the guys I hung out with used the same language. What I began to realize though as I listened to Phil, was that the words out of my mouth were a reflection of the attitude of my heart. I couldn’t continue to praise God Sunday mornings, and then cuss others out come Monday. As James says at the end of verse 12, “you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring.” And my spring was getting pretty “salty”.
Therefore, we made an agreement as a group that if we caught any of us using unkind, crude or rude words, we were authorized to “frog” that person. For those of you unfamiliar with “frogging”, allow me to explain. It is an activity that only teenage young men could devise. It involves raking your heal in a strong powerful stroke down the back of another’s calf. It is even more effective if you are wearing “grippy” tennis shoes and the intended victim is wearing shorts. Bonus points can be earned if the inflictor is able to remove portions of leg hair. Sounds tremendous doesn’t it. Frogging became a real bonding experience for all of us. We responded to this new invitation of accountability with great passion and vigor. Needless to say, it took only a handful of frogging altercations to transform my daily speech. One or two bald patches on my calves were more than enough to hit home the idea that I needed to realign my words with my beliefs.
What are the words that come out of your mouth saying about your heart? James’ admonition goes beyond cussing. Are we choosing to build people up, or are we taking the week and insensitive approach of “lighting up” those around us with the fire of our words?
As Men Who Believe, we are called to a higher standard.
“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14
Lord I give you the words of my mouth. Help me align my words with what I claim to believe. I want to honor you and those around me. Help me take every opportunity to encourage others with the words of my mouth. Amen.