Today’s Thought: What truth do my words tell?
Your tongue is like a sharp razor, you worker of treachery. You love evil more than good, and lying more than speaking the truth. You love all words that devour, O deceitful tongue. (Psalm 52:2-4)
In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, there is a scene late in Act 1 when Lady Macbeth urges her husband to murder King Duncan so that he may take the crown. Adding to the deviousness of their plot is the fact that Duncan has always shown kindness to both of them and even considers Macbeth a close friend. For their plan to work, they must keep up the charade, and Macbeth cautions his wife to watch her behavior: “False face must hide what the false heart doth know.”
Throughout Macbeth, Shakespeare cleverly reveals how hard some people will work to mask their actual intentions; but in the end, a person’s true heart will always reveal itself—typically through something he or she says. Over the last few days, we’ve read how James cautioned others about trying to behave like Christians through their works while not actually being Christians in their hearts. Now, in James 3:9-12, he writes how the things we say are yet another indicator of where our true hearts lie.
With [our speech] we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water? Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh.
James is mirroring the words Jesus said to the Pharisees about religious laws that ban “unclean” foods: “Listen and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.”… What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles.” (Matthew 15:10-11, 18)
My heart will guide my speech. Does that mean my heart is always set on God? Last time I looked, I’m still human! I struggle with anger, frustration, and regret. None of that gets by the Spirit undeterred, though, so I quickly get the message when I need to apologize for something I’ve said or done.
As James reminds us in verse 9, we are all made in the likeness of God: me, you, coworkers, neighbors, strangers we pass with a smile or a frown. We are all made in the likeness of God. When we love God in our hearts, we can’t help but speak and behave differently. And when we falter, we can’t wait to make things right. Let’s use our tongues to spread that message.
Thursday’s Theologian: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German pastor and theologian, writes, “It is easily forgotten that the fellowship of Christian brethren is a gift of grace, a gift of the Kingdom of God that any day may be taken from us, that the time that still separates us from utter loneliness may be brief indeed. Therefore, let him who until now has had the privilege of living a common Christian life with other Christians praise God’s grace from the bottom of his heart. Let him thank God on his knees and declare: It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren.”