Today’s blog, written by Pastor Peter Yoon of Kairos Church in San Diego, was first posted on November 25, 2014.
Devotional Thought for Today
“Keeping Your Mouth Sealed”
The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered. 28 Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.
Years ago, we held a men’s retreat at a small religious conference center managed by three nuns from a Catholic church. The conference center hosted both groups as well as individuals who retreated from their busy schedules. That particular weekend, our group was told that there would be a couple of priests using the facilities for their “silent retreat.” It was the first time I had ever heard of such a thing. A silent retreat was a weekend in which these priests would withhold any speech from their mouths for 3 days. As one Jesuit priest explained: “All you have to do is show up—and shut up.”
Could you imagine keeping silent for 3 whole days? (And please don’t get snarky now wishing your talkative spouse or roommate would read through this.) We typically hate silence. To remain silent takes tremendous discipline. Dallas Willard wrote about the discipline of silence: “Practice in not speaking can at least give us enough control over what we say that our tongues do not ‘go off’ automatically. This discipline provides a certain inner distance that gives us time to consider our words fully and the presence of mind to control what we say and when we say it.”
James, too, knew all about the tongue. He had seen man’s capacity to tame all sort of wild and vicious animals. However, there was one thing that man could not tame: his tongue. He writes: “No human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (Jas.3:8). This deadly tongue of ours have too often damaged reputations, destroyed friendships, split marriages, and even divided churches. Who hasn’t given themselves to a little lie, a gossip here, and a slander there?
Solomon warns us to use words with restraint. He even draws a picture of how a fool can be mistaken as a wise person just in keeping his mouth closed. In Prov. 10:19, Solomon had also observed that “when words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.”
What if you were to hold your tongue today instead of complaining about the bad service? What if you were to practice restraint rather than expressing your critical opinions? What if you kept your words today to a minimum and actually praised others?
Prayer: Dear God, forgive me if I have developed the habit of overusing my tongue, and in doing so, I have participated in gossip, slander, and lies. Help me to live with your wisdom and use words with restraint and intentionally to bless others throughout the day. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 66
Lunch Break Study
Read James 3:2-12 (NIV): We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check. 3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. 7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
Questions to Consider
- Why do you think James uses the comparisons of a bit (horse), rudder (ship), and spark (forest fire) when teaching about the tongue?
- What are some damaging effects of an undisciplined tongue?
- James wants to show that though the size of the tongue is small, the kind of effect that it can have on something is so much larger.
- James says that the undisciplined tongue corrupts the whole body and even sets the whole course of one’s life on fire. One’s life can be ruined because one does not practice wisdom and restraint.
How do you think your tongue was used today? Did you bless others or curse others? Spend some time this week in solitude (including shutting off social media). Be silent before the Lord and let His power and grace overwhelm you.