I was working in the kitchen the other day, putting a nice salad together. There were some vegetables to chop up for the salad; onions, celery, bell peppers, tomatoes, even some olives. I know, I know, there are some who don’t like olives, but it was going to be a sort of Greek salad.
It happened all of a sudden, and without any warning. I picked up the first knife I came across, which was actually more of a carving knife. It wasn’t really the proper one to use for the job, but I thought it would get the job done. It definitely did get the job done, before I knew I had sliced into my thumb! It happened so quickly, it really caught me off guard. I knew I should have been using the right kind of knife for this particular work, one that can be controlled when chopping.
Let me tell you, that knife cut was so quick, so deep, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to write this Wednesday Word, my thumb was throbbing so. I bandaged it the best I could and endured the throbbing pain for the better part of the day and night. I finally took a pain reliever and went to bed. It was better the next day, and obviously, I’m able to use my hand to type this out.
All of this got me thinking about how each of us can inflict a very quick deep cut before we even realize it. The Bible speaks about the injury our tongues can cause. In Proverbs 12:18 says, “Thoughtless words cut like a sword. But the tongue of wise people brings healing.”
Too often, many of us let our tongues run away doing all sorts of harm. We slice and dice others to shreds before we know it. There are even those who glory in their ability to cut people down with what they say.
The problem is, once the cut is inflicted, its too late. Just like when I ran that sharp knife across my thumb. Of course, I knew it immediately. I grabbed the place where I cut and squeeze it to keep it from gushing blood everywhere. Once the slice and dice job was done, it was too late to take it back. All I could do was run to where I kept my medical supplies and do the best I could to sterilize and bind up the wound. I couldn’t take it back, I couldn’t say “I’m sorry” to my poor aching thumb. All I could do after applying the bandages was wait for it to heal. That’s going to take a little while, it was a pretty deep cut.
What about when we wound others with what we say? How long do we think it will take for those cuts to heal? Again, we can say we’re sorry all we want, but the words have come out and done a number on the other, and there’s really no taking it back.
We are told in Ephesians 4:29 “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Probably the best way we can avoid harming others is to use our tongues properly and for building up and encouraging. This is the best way to keep from letting our mouths, and what comes out of them, from being a destructive weapon.
It’s hard bridling our tongues and mouths. I know for myself, I can think of all sorts of clever words to inflict on those who make me angry, or who seek to harm or bully me. But we are clearly instructed in James 3:2-10 “For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.”
As followers of Jesus, the one who was gentle in spirit and full of grace and love, we are to let our mouths be used for good and not evil. We are to be vessels of love to all, even to those who we are at odds with. Jesus tells us in Matthew 15:11 “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.”
Let me just say, the knife I was using was exceedingly sharp, but if I had kept proper control over it, I would not be typing now with this wounded hand. The same is true when I keep control over what I say. When I do that, I can be sure I will not harm another with my tongue, and indeed will be following in the path Jesus would have me follow.
May God give us the desire to control what comes out of our mouths, that we might be beacons of light, life, and love. As the Psalmist said in 141:3, “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!
Your fellow traveler on the Way,