I can’t be the only one who has always been hit with a pang of guilt when reading James’ urge to be “slow to speak” (James 1:19).
James isn’t the only one to convict us on our tongues. You could put together a list of examples strewn across the Bible (which, of course, I’m going to do):
- “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but hard words stir up anger.” -Proverbs 15:1
- “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6
- “Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.” -Proverbs 10:19
- “What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” -Matthew 15:11
I could continue, but the point has been made. Our words are very important in the eyes of God.
Speaking gracefully has been a battle for me since the day I said my first word. Gracious, kind, SLOW speech is not my natural inclination. Harsh, thoughtless, and opinionated is my bent.
When I came to Christ early in my teenage years, the Holy Spirit started shifting my heart and drawing me away from sin and to the cross. Yet, my words were still thoughtlessly spitting out of my mouth, caustic and unkind.
I have learned since the moment I embraced the cross that God is not content to let us remain in the ways of death we once walked in. We struggle with sin, yes, but we are already MADE righteous. He will not relent in transforming us into new creatures who put on righteousness and follow Jesus.
If you trust Him to shape your words, He will. This post, while meandering, actually does have a point: I want to encourage you who are struggling with the words that your mouth speaks or fingers type to know that He is faithful and dedicated to your holiness.
A recent example of this shone brightly in my life. I spent the day being acutely aware of a digital theological debate that was being waged with people holding their ground in the far wings. I wanted to jump in and talk about how the Bible held the middle line on this issue but was hit by the words of James:
“Be slow to speak.”
Each time I wanted to chime in, to write about it, I was struck by those words. Even my good intentions would not have guaranteed an answer that glorified God, and so I was prompted to refrain.
Those moments were encouraging to me, someone who struggles with her words and fails daily. With the grace of God, I am becoming slow(er) to speak. He’s brought me this far, He’ll stay with me, and He’ll strengthen you to fight for godliness too.