The other night I was faced with a choice. I was staring evil in the face and wasn’t sure whether to speak or stay silent. After a quick assessment, I went with my gut and chose the option that didn’t come naturally. I stayed silent and left God to be sovereign over evil.
I walked away wondering, did I do the right thing? After all, there are times when we are called to speak up and be advocates for justice! But this was different. My urge to speak would only scratch the itch of being right rather than bring about restoration. So silence, although it nearly killed me, was evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work in my life.
You see, my family knows me as a firecracker. I’ve always had a feisty side, and a bend towards seeking justice for the underdog. Put the combination together and sometimes I can come off opinionated and self-righteous. What can I say? I’m sure I was a joy to be around during my teenage years.
Life has softened me a bit, as I’m slowly learning that silence also is a holy virtue. James says the following about the tongue:
“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” James 1: 26-27
“So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life and set on fire by hell… no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father and with it we curse people who are make in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” James 3: 5-10
I think we all can agree that our tongues have gotten out of hand as of late. Log on to Facebook or Twitter and you’ll be given dozens of examples of passionate words, with little action to back it up.
As a girl who used to have a blog named “The Sassy Salmon” – I have little room to talk. These passages on the tongue make me shudder. What a strong admonition on our mouths!? But what brings this sassy justice seeker to the point of contentment is that a bridled tongue doesn’t mean we have to sit idly by twiddling our thumbs. Some days we speak up and out, but many days we speak truth with our actions. We visit orphans and widows, and we work with the oppressed in our society, actively fighting injustices with our resources, not just our words.
I love how the contrast between pure religion and worthless religion is the tongue AND actions. Pure religion seeks out the betterment of others, it pushes us to act upon our beliefs and love those facing affliction. Worthless religion is an unbridled tongue, that later is described with the capability of setting our lives afire and destroying everything it touches.
I used to think that in order to have a bridled tongue, I needed to just shut my trap and smile and nod a lot more. But that’s not what Scripture tells us. Using our words wisely doesn’t mean we stay silent, rather it means we have a bridled tongue. It means we use words to serve Kingdom purposes. Our words are well thought out, premeditated, intentional, and researched. Our words are spoken with measure and passion and Christ’s redemptive nature driving every syllable. And our words line up with our actions. If we speak about justice, post on social media about social justice, but do not live lives that bring about justice… perhaps our words our empty and we’re merely deceiving ourselves.
Back to my choice to stay silent the other night. Even today I rehearsed what I wanted to say in that moment. I developed a witty dialogue all mapped out in my head. It had sophisticated jabs and educated points and all the sass that you would expect from The Sassy Salmon. It felt good to imagine myself telling off evil, and yet in my soul I knew that I was using my words to set fire to someone’s world rather than bring about restoration. I might have listened to the Holy Spirit in the moment and obeyed in silence, but today the tongue in my head is still longing to whip and lash. It is an everyday wrestle to bridle my tongue, but my prayer is that through reading these convicting passages in James, I’ll keep on confessing and repenting and working out my religion, pressing on towards what is pure and undefiled, and fighting for the holiness of a bridled a tongue.
Hoping with you,