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The Untamable Tongue A Lesson In Blessing And Cursing
I have to admit that my mouth and words have gotten me into more trouble than I care to confess and it is a huge temptation not to expose my shortcomings, and excuse myself from the equation in this lesson. But it certainly was the very experience, I will describe in a bit, that was fodder for this lesson. In light of this.
My nature is not a quiet unassuming one and Jesus words in Matthew 12:36 gives me great pause and tremble concerning this particular issue.
I say to you that for every idle (careless, unprofitable, barren) word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment
The latest lesson in this matter was played out on the field of modern technology and did not involve my actual mouth, but lead to a humbling lesson about words, and provided for a great visual for this study. The foundation story in the next couple of paragraphs will be a launch into a much broader discussion of the accountability of words and how we use them, as well as the power in them, that will move beyond the scope of my experience.
Modern Technology...Blessing or Curse
I most recently was contacted via text message by a friend with whom I have not heard from in over a year. My friend shared something in that message that I wanted clarity about and rather than ask him myself I sent a text to my daughter (or so I thought) asking her what she thought considering that her occupation concerned the subject matter. The moment I hit the send button on the message, that was obviously not written to him, I realized that it was being sent to my friend and not my daughter. He replied with an "I don't understand" at which point I had to explain what had just happened and of course apologize. He graciously informed me that he wished for that to not to be shared and let me off the hook, but I did not feel off the hook in anyway shape or form.
I wish I could say this was the first time this has happened but there was another occasion in which I was visiting my granddaughter, who was born prematurely, at the hospital. My son was a little on the cranky side and I had the bright idea to send a text to his wife (or so I thought) asking her what he was being so cranky about. I realized that the text was sent to him and not his wife when I looked up to see him glaring at me after looking up from his phone. This did not improve his disposition by any means.
Back to the first incident...corrective revelations and illustrations were pouring forth as I reflected on the panic I felt after hitting the send button when everything I should have done flashed before my eyes and I realized that I could not take it back. That's how words are aren't they? whether you speak them, send them in a text, or email, They go out there and you cannot take them back...
My word be that goes forth from My mouth;It shall not return to Me void,But it shall accomplish what I please
— Isaiah 55:11
I realize that the above verse, God is talking about what His Word will do, but could it be an underlying principle that words go out and accomplish things good or bad. The concept of "words" being things is confirmed in the Hebrew word for "word" which is "davar" and can be used interchangeably with the word "thing"
This is also evidenced in the creation account when we see Words from God's mouth bring forth substantial things.
From a broader perspective, as it includes that of gossip, Billy Graham writes in His "Day by Day" devotional titled "The Power of Words" in reference to this idea writes...
There is a story of a woman in England who came to her vicar with a troubled conscience. The vicar knew her to be a habitual gossip—she had maligned nearly everyone in the village. “How can I make amends?” she pleaded. The vicar said, “If you want to make peace with your conscience, take a bag of goose feathers and drop one on the porch of each one you have slandered.” When she had done so, she came back to the vicar and said, “Is that all?” “No,” said the wise old minister, “you must go now and gather up every feather and bring them all back to me.” After a long time the woman returned without a single feather. “The wind has blown them all away,” she said. “My good woman,” said the vicar, “so it is with gossip. Unkind words are easily dropped, but we can never take them back again.”
Although there was no malicious intent in my question to my daughter concerning my friend. It was unkindness to share without his permission to do so, and the same principle applies from the story Billy Graham shared in that sending forth anything in any format should be scrutinized as such because even if we have justified the reasonableness of our intentions it does not account for the disrespect and dishonor it may bring to the person who did not count on it being shared, not to mention the fact that you cannot take it back.
Charles Spurgeon also writes so eloquently on this matter of sensitivity to those we love and care about in his devotional titled "Morning and Evening" in his morning entry for November 29
"Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people … Thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him.”
— Leviticus 19:16, 17
Tale-bearing emits a threefold poison; for it injures the teller, the hearer, and the person concerning whom the tale is told. Whether the report be true or false, we are by this precept of God’s Word forbidden to spread it. The reputations of the Lord’s people should be very precious in our sight, and we should count it shame to help the devil to dishonour the Church and the name of the Lord. Some tongues need a bridle rather than a spur. Many glory in pulling down their brethren, as if thereby they raised themselves. Noah’s wise sons cast a mantle over their father, and he who exposed him earned a fearful curse. We may ourselves one of these dark days need forbearance and silence from our brethren, let us render it cheerfully to those who require it now. Be this our family rule, and our personal bond—Speak evil of no man...
In light of this, I should have presented my question to my friend that would have been the more trustworthy respectful Godly way of handling that. Paul relays the best instructions and rule of thumb concerning this;
Let no corrupt (worthless, useless, unnecessary) word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers
— Ephesians 4:29
Titus chapter 3:2 reiterates this theme, mentioned above by Spurgeon, in Paul's encouragement to Titus about teaching the followers to submit to rulers authorities and to keep their attention on doing good works.
speak evil (less than, lightly in a dishonoring way) of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men
The word evil in the above verse means to speak against in a way that might ruin a person's reputation in the eyes of others I take this to also mean that even if you're not against somebody it isn't acceptable to share things that might make them feel dishonored in the eyes of others.
For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us
— Titus 3:3
James minces no words in his letter of exhortation. He is neither tender nor gentle in his expression of the reality and gravity of this problem of the tongue and the power of words along with the damages that they can bring.
Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so
— James 3
"Curse" seems like a harsh word and indeed it is. Is that what we do when we talk about others, rather than to them, in any negative form or fashion, without their knowledge or permission? The Greek word for curse used in the above verse seems to indicate this very concept. The first part of this Greek word for "curse" "Katara" has a root "kata" and implies the bringing down of someone, a putting under, and ruling over. It also implies the invocation of doom (sounds a bit witch crafty doesn't it?) Isn't that what talking about people really is in terms of gossip bringing others down to exalt self?
"Ara" the second portion of this Greek word "katara" used in the above verse according to James Strong, means curse and uses the word prayer in its definition. Is that what speaking negatively about others is? A negative prayer of sorts? Could everything we speak a prayer to one side or the other?
for further explanation let's look at its Hebrew word equivalent "qalal" which means to, lightly esteem someone and treat with no value by diminishing them in word or relation. Its pictograph is both revealing as well as convicting relative to this
Hebrew Word Pictograph for Curse
The first letter of "qalal" is a qoof and is sometimes imaged as the back of one's head that is facing away from the rising sun. The thought is that of someone setting off to live the life of a day and can indicate behind the back.
The second two letters are the same and they are "lamed" and is a picture of a shepherd staff that carries the idea of authority and is interestingly the very first letter of the Hebrew word of tongue "lashon". Also, observe that when a letter is doubled in Hebrew it speaks of something that is perpetual or in motion.
If we combine the images into one concept we can see that cursing is the tongues behind the back authorizing and setting into motion, evil against someone who is simply just trying to live their day or life just like ourselves. Paul exhorts concerning these things;
For I fear lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I wish, and that I shall be found by you such as you do not wish; lest there be contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, backbitings, whisperings, conceits, tumults
— II Corinthians 12:20
A good rule of thumb is if you wouldn't say it in their presence don't say it at all.
Another interesting Hebrew word pictograph that connects the concepts of cursing and prayer, and is similar in pattern to "qalal", is the Hebrew word for prayer "palal". Recall that the Hebrew word for "curse", "qalal", was spelled "qoof", "lamed", "lamed". The Hebrew word for prayer, "palal", is spelled "pey", "lamed", "lamed". As you can see they only differ in one letter. The "qoof" recall spoke of behind the back. The "pey" being a picture of a mouth speaks of face to face. In fact, "pey" is the first letter of the Hebrew word for face "panim". We can see by joining the concepts from a pictograph perspective palal has to do with the perpetual authority of the mouth that is forward facing and forward promoting.
Palal's definition agrees with this picture and is actually a legal term having to do with mediating and interceding on behalf of someone rather than against them and making a favorable judgement concerning them.
Even if we have some issue with someone that is negative in nature our earlier verse in Leviticus tell us how to handle that.
Thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbor
— Leviticus 19:17
In other words Go to your neighbor to sort it out not every other person you know. We need to protect our relationships not expose them.
Jesus reiterates this in His instructions to His disciples
if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone
— Matthew 18:15
To and Fro...It's About Territory
This Hebrew word for "curse" which is "qalal", in one of its forms, means to move to and fro. In reference to this, I was most recently watching a video from El Shaddai Ministries where a man named Ricco Cortez was talking about the phrase "to and fro" in the Bible and how in the ancient mind to walk to and fro throughout a territory was to survey it for potential possession. God told Abraham,
Arise, walk in the land through its length and its width (to and fro), for I give it to you.
— Genesis 13:17
This gives a particular incident in Job, during a conversation between God and Satan, a new meaning when God asks Satan where he is coming from.
So Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.
— Job 1:7
Why is Satan walking to and fro and going back and forth on the earth?
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour
— I Peter 5:8
Satan is looking to seize any opportunity so that he can possess territory in our lives and others in order to destroy.
He who guards his mouth preserves his life, But he who opens wide his lips shall have destruction
— Proverbs 13:3
While we wag our tongues to and fro with unhelpful and unuseful speech we make fodder as well as an invitation to the evil that is traipsing to and fro looking to take advantage. Let's not give him the weapons of our words and agreement to do it.Our prideful self-justified, unnecessary discussions and rants are what opens up that door of opportunity for the enemy to come in and possess territory in our minds and lives and to do his desired destruction.
“Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another.“Be angry, and do not sin”:do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.
— Ephesians 4:25-26
This also gives new meaning to a portion of scripture in II Chronicles 16:9
For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.
— II Chronicles 16:9
God too is looking to seize any opportunity we would give Him to possess life territories. The key is loyalty to God and His ways of blessing and not cursing. Can we see why we ought not to curse and give no room nor opportunity to the adversary of all, in anyone's life? In terms of loyalty and speech, we must ask ourselves with all that we say, "Whose side are you on"?
We might be tempted to think that it is ok to talk about someone as long as the person we are talking about doesn't know. Proverbs once again remind us that our words go out there and can at any time be exposed and picked up by a bird (symbol of spiritual being) to use against others and ourselves.
Do not curse the king, even in your thought;
Do not curse the rich, even in your bedroom;
For a bird of the air may carry your voice,
And a bird in flight may tell the matter
— Ecclesiastes 10:20
A useful acronym I have hanging on my fridge that I ought to have heeded prior to my blabbering breach and blunder is this:
- Is it True?
- Is it Helpful?
- Is it Inspiring?
- Is it Necessary?
- Is it Kind?
The "Is it True" is easy for me. I certainly find no pleasure in lying about people. The helpful and necessary part is what gets me the most. The sharing of something that serves no purpose nor benefit to anyone.
I will conclude with the very best and most powerful use of our words and mouth, that will give God the ultimate ground and opportunity in our lives as well as others, and is exhibited in the Hebrew word Hallelujah.
The Hebrew word Hallelujah means praise consisting of "Yah" and its root "halal". Similar to qalal (curse) and palal (prayer). This is a word that concerns the tongue and its everlasting potentials and authority, as expressed in its two ending letters of double "lameds". "Hey" the first letter of "halal" is a picture of a window symbolizing revelation. Conceptually speaking we might conclude that halal is tongues expressing the revelation of God as the early apostles did...
we cannot help telling what we have seen and heard
— Acts 4:20 (Amplified)
Just as with prayer and cursing, this Word for praise halal is also a legal term that has to do with judging. Jesus our greatest example shows us how this works in terms of offense...
when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously
— I Peter 2:23
He shows us the only judgment we are to make is in discerning God as faithful, righteous, and dependable.
The Lord is righteous in all His ways, Gracious in all His works.
— Psalm 145:17
Praising God puts all things into perspective and gives God the legal authority to judge rightly on behalf of us and others. He then becomes the focus of our speech, attitudes, and actions towards others. as it should be.
...out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
— Luke 6:45
May our hearts be filled abundantly with the goodness of the Lord and His love and encouragement to others. As it concerns others in our judgments and opinions may we...
whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things
— Philippians 4:8
I conclude with a useful, and necessary scriptural prayer.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer
— Psalm 19:14
© 2015 Tamarajo