“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” (James 3:13, NIV)

Were you teased or called names by other children while growing up? I recall chanting the adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but word will never hurt me.” As a kid, somehow, this made me feel better at the time but did not hide the truth that some words were hurtful. Now that I am older, I appreciate how fortunate I am that my self-esteem and self-worth escaped potential damage from surly comments. But unfortunately, there are many broken children and adults still experiencing pain from words spoken to them.

Revisiting times when I used words that may have hurt others reminds me, I am not the same person beyond 50 as in my early adulthood. It is only in the power of the Holy Spirit in me that I can have self-control. The truth of God’s Word found in the book of James teaches us that appropriate actions accompany an authentic life of faith in Jesus Christ. James puts it this way in 2:16, NLT, “So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.” One of these actions is how we control our tongue and talking hands.

We have moved far away from face-to-face comments to a virtual world where the tongue has a partner, the talking hand. Social media is the most used tool for communicating thoughts and opinions, and often it is without restraint or forethought. With one click, the talking hand speaks for the tongue through a text or post. Advancements in technology provided us with vehicles to stay connected during a pandemic no one imagined would shut down the world. But unfortunately, these same tools also pulled back the covers on the heart and mind of humanity with a virtual demonstration of how people use words to hurt and discourage.

What does James teach us about the importance of controlling our tongues?  Begin with how James introduces himself in James 1:1. First, James identifies himself as a servant of God and Jesus Christ. This introduction alone gives us an expectation that what follows will be consistent with his identity. Next, chapter 3:1-10 is devoted to teaching about the characteristics of the tongue.

  • The tongue is a small but mighty organ that can corrupt the whole body. (3: 3-5)
  • No human being can tame the tongue. (3:7-8)
  • The tongue used to praise God also curses human beings, made in the likeness of God.  (3:9-10)

James also addresses the typical ‘I’m not perfect’ expression in (3:2), “Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.”

So how do we control our tongue and talking hands? The answer is wisdom. Not just wisdom that comes from knowledge, but the wisdom that comes from God through the Holy Spirit. “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” (James 3:17-18, NIV)

Before a text, chat, or post, perform a litmus test to evaluate if your post or response is necessary and if it includes using the wisdom that comes from God.

“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, ESV)