Mothers’ Union Devotion Sunday 12th September, the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity
Or look at ships: though they are so large that it takes strong winds to drive them, yet they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits.
How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! James 3. 4-5
During the past 18 months we have all experienced the rising power of the tongue. When other means of communicating our emotions through physical touch and the expression on our faces have been removed, our speaking has had to carry so much more information than usual. It is so much harder to use a thoughtful pause in a phone call, without causing the listener to worry the phone lines have been cut or some unintended upset has been felt. Because we are all capable of using our tongues in a negative way. As James reminds us that it only takes a small fire to bring about total devastation and destruction.
Our tongues have the capacity to knock down the confidence of those to whom we speak and inflict long lasting wounds by criticising, using biting and stinging words or by belittling and ignoring the opinions and feelings of others. Our tongues can also fail to remedy the situation by remaining unresponsive and unyielding, leading to years of separation and hurt. Our tongues continuing to boast of our righteousness and superiority in any given conflict.
Of course, this is not the only way our tongues can guide us. Our tongues can do so much more. Through them we can build people up, giving them the confidence to grow as individuals and as groups. We can encourage through our words, guiding people to achieve their full potential. Our tongues are capable of producing words of immense compassion, soothing and healing the broken and the lost. With our tongues we can bring peace into areas of conflict by acknowledging the God-given humanity in each and everyone we encounter.
So, James is right to warn us about the power of the tongue. He continues ‘With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God.’ Overcoming the negative power of the tongue is hard. When we are tired, when we are frightened, when we are hurting, it is so easy to let the tongue have free rein. So, we need to turn to the one who can help guide our tongues into the way of peace, asking Jesus to teach us how to use our tongues for blessing and supporting all whom we speak to each day.
With all my love and prayers