Bound By Our Word

“If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless.” (James 1:26)

Appearances are important to people in our society. It is only natural to form an opinion of someone by the way they appear. I must admit that my first love was based upon a judgment of that person’s appearance. She was the babe of my desire and I pursued her until I had caught her attention. We dated for a short while until I realized that she was not really all that attractive to me. The way she expressed herself and the topics that she talked about were not what I had been taught to accept. I listened and soon learned that I was nothing more than her little elf that was to express admiration and perform services to her satisfaction. I was just a hang-on-to until some poor dude who was even more gullible that I came along to fill her fancy. I have had this experience many times in my adventures to learn that what appears beautiful can become very ugly when that persons mouth is engaged.

I have been in enough Churches in my life to know that some who attend are there for the status of it. My father was a minister of the Gospel of Christ and some of the Churches he served in were very large. I took notice that a lot of the positions that people had in society in general has a lot to do with the positions they had in the Church. Understandable enough until I became older and saw how these same Church leaders acted outside of the Church congregation. This was not the way that I was raised. To be trendy, popular, and to blend into the crowd I was with. I was taught to be my own person, to be of my own mind, and to stand on what I believed was right. I was also taught to speak with civility by my mother and a bar of ivory soap.

This is the point of James here that if we appear to be religious and very pious on Sunday and on Monday return to our evil ways in speech we have proven the lie we live one day a week by the truth of the other six days. We have totally discredited our integrity and shown people for the hypocrisy that we really are. It is worse than that because when we carry the brand of our company and then misbehave we also damage the image of the company brand. When we profess to be followers of Jesus Christ and then during the week act as the demons, our testimony for Jesus is worthless. In the eyes of the unbeliever Jesus become worthless as well. We cannot bless our Lord and Savior on Sunday and then curse those who He died for on Monday and expect anyone to take us seriously. We are seen as doubleminded and unstable. “With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.” (James 3:9-10)

When I entered into the work force I learned early on what a loose cannon my tongue was. My temper has a very short fuse and when it went off the explosion always got me into difficulties that weren’t worth the fight. Those who were responsible for me passed me by on some promotions that I could have handled well. I found myself often kicking myself in the heard for the noble directions I set out upon and then allowed my tongue to alter the course to places I did not want to go. I have since learned that the outward goals may appear to be good but if the intentions of the heart are not pure your tongue will reveal the inner truth. “And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.” (James 3:6)

Of all the tussles that I have been in I have learned that it is not those who have opposed me but that little demon that I have allowed to reside within that I must fight with. I went through a good piece of my life thinking that I was a good sort. I thought that I was the sort that people would respect and look up to only to realize that my mouth revealed that I was a rotten sort that people wanted to dispose of. I bumped into an old high school friend a long while back. He was one of those who back in the day was a real bad dude. Just the kind I would hang with because my mouth always need someone to back me up. We talked over past times and I soon learned that his seemed short. He told me that he had just gotten out of Raeford State Prison. His tongue was a bigger cannon that mine. That news reminded me of the word of Jesus that every word that we speak we will be held accountable for. I missed the prison trip but I won’t miss being accountable to the Lord. “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. “You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. “The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. “But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the Day of Judgment. “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:33-37)

In the world we hear a lot of stuff we do not really care to listen to. Folks didn’t talk that way when I was a kid, but then I grew up with “Leave It to Beaver.” But times change and today we are bombarded with foul language and foul thoughts, words filled with anger and malice, people who say slanderous things against others, and just plain abusive speech. It is not because of the political season that we are in it is because we no longer teach civility. What is hurtful is not only to the one who they are speaking to or about, or even if it is pointed towards me, it is that they too will be accountable on the Day of Judgment. I have confronted people about their wicked speech but I can’t change the way they were brought up, only the transforming power of the Lord can do that. “But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.” (Colossians 3:8)

James makes a shocking but true statement in his letter, “But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.” (James 3:8) Still to this day, if I am not careful and lose sight of my mission, I can let my tongue lose in a vile way. If you want to hurt someone’s heart, then it is the tongue that will do it. But if you want to lift a heart out of the quagmire of this world we live in the same tongue is the tool that you can use. This is why we must have our heart focused upon the Lord at all times. We are to wait on the Lord and He will lead us. “Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; For You I wait all the day.” (Psalm 25:5) James also gave me some hard advice to follow as I am usually thinking of what I am going to say instead of listening to what I should be. “This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” (James 1:19-20)

As we go about professing to be the King’s Kids we must be mindful that not only what we do but also what we saying reflects back upon our Lord. That our deed and word validates our testimony for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It truly is a narrow road that leaves little wiggle room. I think I like that, as it requires me to stay focused on the goal of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. I pray this Psalm each day before I face the world outside of my sanctuary. “Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.” (Psalm 141:3) It is that we are His ambassadors representing His Kingdom that is soon to come. I have dishonored myself plenty in the space of time I have been in this world. I deserved that. But I do not want to dishonor my Lord as He is worthy of all my honor and praise. When I speak I want to speak the words that He gives me that people will see Him though one such as I. “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29)

That way I can strive to be acceptable in His sight and all those whom I meet. “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14).

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, November 8, 2015

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