Talk Like a Christian
When have you been challenged to control your tongue?
“Avast, me hearties! Shiver me timbers! Arrrrrrr!” You’ll hear these phrases on September 19, which has been labeled “Talk Like a Pirate Day.” It is a day devoted simply to talking like a pirate — a truly silly excuse for a holiday.
James was not a pirate of the first century, but he knew a bit about sailing the high seas. “Consider ships,” he wrote to his fellow Christians: “They are so large that strong winds are needed to drive them. But pilots direct their ships wherever they want with a little rudder. In the same way, even though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts wildly” (James 3:4-5).
The tongue is a small but powerful instrument, able to have an effect that is as influential as the rudder on a pirate ship. James knew that words have enormous power, for good or for evil.
“You are too small to be a good basketball player,” says a youth league coach. “Girls should steer clear of science and engineering,” advises a parent or teacher. “You can’t be a Christian and believe that!” scolds a member of a Bible study. “You are such a loser,” says a cool kid in the high-school cafeteria. “Don’t tell your parents,” warns an abusive uncle; “no one will believe you.”
The devastating power of words is clear to James, which is why he says, “A small flame can set a whole forest on fire. The tongue is a small flame of fire” (verses 5 and 6). He knows that the tongue can be used to discourage, derail, dismay, deceive and destroy the precious children of God, and he describes it as “a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (verse 8).
The challenge for us is to Talk Like a Christian, not Talk Like a Pirate. This means that we do not use our tongues to “bless the Lord and Father” one minute, and then “curse human beings made in God’s likeness” the next (verse 9). It is never appropriate to offer up enthusiastic praise to God on Sunday, and then call your coworker a “stinking bilge rat” on Monday.
To talk like a Christian, we need to speak to other people with full awareness that they are created in God’s image. This means that we see them as men and women who are made in the image and likeness of God, breathed into being with the very breath of God. We owe them the same respect that we show toward their Creator.
In addition, we should speak in a way that is in line with the teachings of Jesus, the Word of God in human form. He tells us not to judge others, and commands us to “treat people in the same way that you want people to treat you.” (Matthew 7:12). Such words should shape our speech, as we attempt to Talk Like a Christian.
Help me, Lord, to tame my tongue and speak respectfully to people around me. Amen.