Jms. 3:9 -12 “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father and with it we curse men who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”
A woman I know recently gave a stirring presentation of the salvation message to a group and an hour later was heard calling another Christian woman a derogatory name. This should not be. We call it “two-faced.” In the old B Westerns I recall the Indians mistrusting one who spoke “with a forked tongue.”
We deeply dislike people who are nice to our face but cut us down behind our back. Through James God is telling us he feels the same way when we are nice to his face (in prayer… as we study his Word… in church…), then we cut him (or someone he created in his image) down “behind his back.”
I tremble to think how many times this may have been true of me. How often has God richly blessed me with the privilege of representing him to someone in a personal conversation or teaching a study and shortly thereafter I have snapped at my children or spoken arrogantly to my husband? Fresh water… salt water…
Actually cursing God? No, not me. But we need to realize that the image and likeness of God is represented in each human being. When we treat anyone badly, or speak badly of them, cursing or otherwise, God takes that personally. It is akin to bad treatment or cursing of God himself. Proper regard in our heart for other people as the bearers of God’s image will help us speak to them and of them with the dignity and honor God has granted them.
The charge to beware of presuming to be a teacher was made just a few short verses back. In accepting that position we need to realize how high profile it is; we actually are inviting people to watch our lives! They will be noticing how we use our tongues outside the classroom.
The reference to a salt spring and fresh water remind me that Almighty God is the self-replenishing spring offering fresh water to this thirsty soul of mine. All I have to offer God is my thirst. When I bring my thirst to him, he satisfies. He will not give me salt water to share with others. He will empower me to control my tongue, to share his fresh water with those around me.