I come bearing gifts.
I wrote some devotions for the brand-new NIV Bible for Women. The good people at Zondervan Publishers have offered five copies as gifts, and I’ll be giving them away to my friends. That’s you!
If you’d like a copy of the Bible, email me your name and mailing address through my website or message me through my Facebook page. At the end of this week, I’ll randomly pick five winners for the Bibles. Remember, you must include your mailing address so the Bible can be sent to you.
Now, if you’re not a woman, don’t overlook this opportunity. The Bible could make a great gift for someone in your life. She doesn’t have to know you won it. I won’t tell.
And there’s more. Please enjoy this excerpt from the Bible, one of the devotions I wrote:
Your Deadly Weapon
“Afterward, you can all come over to my house.” I could have stopped there, but for a moment the foreseeable consequences of saying more cowered in the shadow of what I thought I would earn by saying it. So my next phrase sat on my tongue for only a slice of a second, barely examined, before I said it.
And in only another small slice of a moment, I saw my words hit their target with greater force than I expected, and I saw Nathan’s face harden in defense. For some reason, I had thought my insult would glance off him, just one small blow among the many that came his way every day. For some reason, I thought he was used to them and mine wouldn’t hurt. But it did hurt. And it may have penetrated even deeper, since it came from someone who was usually kind to him. He was publicly rejected, humiliated, and alienated. He was devastated.
I looked around at the other faces in the room. My peers, whose favor I had hoped to gain with my cruel words, echoing their own, stared at me in surprise. I had hoped for camaraderie, a boost in popularity. What I saw was disappointment, the draining of respect I hadn’t realized they felt toward me.
In that moment, I saw the kind of damage my tongue could do. And I grew a little wiser in recognizing my lack of strength to wield such a weapon well.
Spoken words can bring healing, order, and life-saving hope. They have equal capacity for injury, disruption, and despair. Too often we choose the latter, and when we do, eventually, the damage we cause extends to ourselves. Politicians, celebrities, pastors, and prom queens have been cut down by their own runaway words.
But while a microphone and a spotlight may magnify our words’ potential for destruction, ordinary people can be just as unwise, hurtful, and destructive in what they say. Have you seen the power of your own tongue? Have you seen it build a thing of beauty, a monument to love and grace, in someone else’s life? Have you watched your own words chip away at another person’s sense of value or confidence or belonging? Have you grieved the destruction you’ve left with one careless word that will never be forgotten? Like all people made in God’s image and corrupted by rebellion against him, you hold incredible power to bless or curse. How well do you wield it?
James 3:1-2 paints such powerful and jarring word pictures. “The tongue…corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” “It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” “Out of the same mouth come praising and cursing.” And his observations are as true as they were 2000 years ago. May you find them both incriminating and encouraging as you realize you aren’t the only one with a wild, untamable tongue.
But if “no human being can tame the tongue,” are we hopeless?
While our own efforts may be doomed to fail, there is hope for us and our tongues, and it is within reach of everyone who follows Christ. The best way to discipline our words is to exercise the kind of self-control that comes from the Holy Spirit.
Galatians 5:22-23 tells us self-control is among the “fruit of the Spirit,” one of the personal qualities that grows as we cultivate the Holy Spirit’s influence on us. Like trees, we produce fruit not of our own choosing, but fruit that shows just who we really are. Healthy apple trees produce luscious apples. Unhealthy apple trees can produce apples too, but they are sour and small and quickly rotting on the ground. The healthy fruit of Christlike character comes not from our own effort to be good, but as a byproduct of a relationship that changes the essence of who we are.
James uses a similar metaphor in his questions about fruit: “Can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs?” And he uses another image to illustrate the truth that the problem with our words starts at their source: “Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”
Who has the power to tame your tongue? God does. If you want refreshing, healing waters to flow from your words, welcome his work in you. Ask him to freshen the salty spring inside.
This devotion appears in the brand-new NIV Bible for Women. Copyright 2015 by Zondervan.
© 2015 Amy Simpson.