Some have said that nearly 6,500 human languages exist! How many of those languages do you think has words that are kind? How many of those languages do you think has words that are hurtful? Probably about 6,500 of them, huh?
Knowing how to talk and knowing how we should talk are two different things aren’t they? Since the day God gave humanity the ability to speak different languages humanity has been using all the different words we know to do two things – help or hurt. “There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, But the tongue of the wise promotes health.” (Proverbs 12:18)
How would our words taste if we had to eat them? I believe James hints at this idea in James 3:7-12 when he said…
“For every sort of beast and bird and every living thing on earth and in the sea has been controlled by man and is under his authority; But the tongue may not be controlled by man; it is an unresting evil, it is full of the poison of death. With it we give praise to our Lord and Father; and with it we put a curse on men who are made in God’s image. Out of the same mouth comes blessing and cursing. My brothers, it is not right for these things to be so. Does the fountain send from the same outlet sweet and bitter water? Is a fig-tree able to give us olives, my brothers, or do we get figs from a vine, or sweet water from the salt sea?” (BBE)
I want to quickly focus on verse 11 (the highlighted scripture) and what we can learn from it.
First, how bitter would our words be if we had to eat them? The word bitter in verse 11 refers to words that are harsh and hurtful. Bitter words destroy unity, morale and trust. One of the fastest ways to use bitter words that destroy is by using them in gossip. You know what gossip can do at work – it can do a lot worse in the church, and God despises it. Two of the seven things that are an abomination to God in Proverbs 6 is “A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.” (vs. 19)
Second, how sweet would our words be if we had to eat them? The word sweet in verse 11 comes from the Greek word Glukus (can you hear glucose in there?) and the practical idea refers to using words that are beneficial, refreshing and a blessing. James isn’t telling his readers to be someone known for being a “sweet talker” but rather one who is known for talking sweet. “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” (Ephesians 4:29)
One of the most important lessons from James 3:11 is if we had to eat our words – or better yet, when we have to eat them (Matthew 12:36-37), how are they are going to taste?