Blessing and Cursing: About Our Tongues

Last weekend, I was in the upstairs bathroom getting myself ready for the day when I heard one of the boys yelling from his room. He didn’t know I was listening.

“I got five kills, two knife kills, in like three seconds,” he shouted to his brother, who was audibly impressed with the rundown. As quickly as the shouting stopped, I heard the same son who had been yelling start to sing sweetly along with his iPod, “Shine, shine, the celebration ….”

It was a video game kill record he was reporting, of course. But it was Christian praise music he started singing. I laughed to myself at the thought of him switching so naturally from cursing to blessing, from waging war to shouting praise.

I was reading in the book of James a few days later, reviewing the truths about tongues and their remarkable power. There, I found this same irony: blessing and cursing from the same mouth.

But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh.

For my stepson it was just a game, and the sweet singing is genuine. I often hear him belting out Christian songs in the shower or from behind his closed bedroom door. But for many of us, the blessings and the curses flow too freely from the same mouth. We’ve seen that firsthand this week here in Indiana.

“You guys have got yourselves a mess there,” a business acquaintance said to me on the phone this week when I told him where I live. I laughed nervously, since the issue he was referring to, Indiana’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act, covers both politics and religion, not exactly light chit-chat for a cross-country phone exchange. And it is messy, especially with vitriolic rhetoric coming from both sides.

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At the heart, though, it seems like a lot of people are using their mouths to talk about loving others while shouting hateful things to their detractors. We can disagree about these things. Lord knows, we will. But the blessings and the curses. Friends, “These things ought not to be this way.”

And especially on this day when we remember the brutal, vicious curses that were hewn at Jesus. Yes, that Jesus, hanging there on the cross. The people cursing him were the same ones that were blessing him just a few days earlier, grabbing palm branches, clothing, anything they could find to lay under him as he passed by.

I’m guilty of this, too. I pray fervently, I praise enthusiastically, and I complain, slander, gossip, nag. All the kinds of “acceptable” curses that just shouldn’t come from the same mouth.

But life’s not a video game, and our praises are more than the songs we sing. It’s time we did something about our tongues.

We never know who might be listening.

Photo by David Martyn Hunt, via Flickr, used with permission under the Creative Commons.

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Charity Singleton Craig

Charity Singleton Craig is a writer, author, and speaker, helping readers grow in their faith and experience true hope in the middle of life’s joys and sorrows. She is the author of My Year in Words: what I learned from choosing one word a week for one year and coauthor of On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life That Lasts.