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Summary: The first section of chapter 3 dealing with our speech but in the context of "active" Christian living for others not a totally separate secton

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Speech is the most creative and most destructive force in all of creation. Two little words, "God said" repeated 13 times in Genesis 1-3 and we have our current situation. Our paradise created with us in mind has been stripped away because of our sin and we bear the punishment for it. It is our words as well as our actions which make us unclean (Matthew 15). Our words reflect the true values within our minds (Matthew 12, Luke 6). The Psalmist asks the Lord to let the "words of my mouth... be acceptable to You" (Psalm 19:14). And of course, James in which we read in verse 9, "With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God." ESV.

I hate this passage because it holds a mirror up to my face and I see myself much too clearly. I grew up fighting with my mouth. In seventh grade my best friend and I devoured and memorized books of insults and putdowns. We fed on them and it gave us great pleasure in reducing others to rage. If you’ve ever heard me say anything remotely nasty, let me tell you it was mild compared to the person I was before Christ.

It is not easy for me to consider this but the truth is, what we say is just one more of the evidences as to whether our lives are captured by Jesus Christ or whether we’re content with living a casual, convenient life with Jesus as part of it. Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, wrote Words That Hurt, Words That Heal in 1996. Since then he has lectured on the nature of Judaism and it’s ethical moral lapse. In one lecture he points out that of all the conversions in Israel none has ever been overturned based on ethics even though the greatest story of conversion is predicated totally on ethics. ["What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor: that is the whole Torah while the rest is commentary; go and learn it."]1

In his lectures Rabbi Telushkin often asks if those in his audience if they can go 24 hours without saying any unkind words about, or to, another person. A few indicate they can and raise their hands, others laugh, and quite a large number call out, "no!"

He responds that those who can’t answer ’yes’ have a serious problem. "If you cannot go 24 hours without drinking liquor, you are addicted to alcohol. If you cannot go 24 hours without smoking, you are addicted to nicotine. Similarly, if you cannot go 24 hours without saying unkind words about others, then you have lost control over your tongue."2

To declare we follow Jesus means that our actions will honor Him and among those actions are taking care of widows and orphans and controlling our tongue. It also directly follows a command that not everyone ought to strive to be a teacher. The way we speak about others is also another evidence of the "distinctions" we are warned about at the beginning of chapter 2. Our control or lack of control obviously is part of the command to be "slow to speak and slow to anger" and "bridling his tongue in verse 25.

Let us assume for a moment that your words have gotten us all in trouble from time to time. How might we discover a way to break the addiction to such sin?


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