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Keep A Civil Tongue

When the Air Force first assigned me to the Pentagon many years ago, I was excited about finally getting to do something really important for the world. The mystique of the place alone made me think it would be a great assignment. What I quickly discovered was that I had a 35 mile commute at 5:15 AM, followed by a long day in a difficult environment, and another 35 mile commute in the evening–this one in bumper-to-bumper traffic. I was a new Christian back then, and I must admit, if the commute to work didn’t get me, and if I made it through a full Pentagon day, often I would loose my composure on the commute home. It doesn’t take much. Maybe one guy too many cuts you off or beeps his horn one time too many and before you know it you’ve said something you wish you hadn’t. I drove that drive for three years, and my daily devotionals always included, “Father, help me keep my tongue today.” If I wasn’t a drunk, was a good husband and father, brought home a paycheck, took my family to church at least once a week, and participated in a home Bible study, why was it so important to me to keep my tongue? I mean really, didn’t that “jerk” in the car behind me deserve what I said under my breath. I should have rolled down my window and told him in person! No, because the tongue that’s out of control is just a sentinel for a whole life that’s out of control.

“When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 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.” James 3:3-12

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