Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?
James 3:11 KJV
In the book Tuck Everlasting, a family discovers a spring that bestows immortality when its waters are consumed. At first, they find the advantages of eternal youth to be awesome: they never aged, remaining as they were when they first drank from the spring. But over decades, with the passage of time, they yearned for a normal, mortal life. The water of the fountain of youth was both sweet and bitter.
The fountain spoken of by the Apostle James, however, is not one of youth, but of the everlasting impact of our words. This fountain, our tongue, according to James, should not be producing words of both love and hatred.
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. James 3:9-10, NIV.
As newlyweds, my husband and I wanted our marriage to be centered on our faith in God. We both worked full-time, but carved out time to develop as believers in prayer groups and Bible studies (not all at the same time!) with others, many of whom became lifelong friends.
One afternoon, I exchanged some sharp words with Tim. Actually, it was less of an exchange and more like direct fire aimed at my husband. A few minutes later, I sat alone at our kitchen table and flipped open my Bible randomly. These words from the epistle of James seemed to be in neon lights: “Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?”
I knew immediately that the Lord was addressing my sharp tongue. Here I was, sitting down to study the word and bless the Lord with my praises directly after spewing venom at my life-partner. Gulp.
Anyone who knows me will wonder if that spectacular moment of sweet conviction truly sparked change in me. I have a way with words: a teenager recently told my daughter that “your mom is a sass-master.” Gulp again.
But I never forgot the gentle admonition from God that day. I apologized to Tim and began to see the truths of the Word of God to be very real and applicable to my life.
All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. James 3:7-8, NIV.
Our words can carry such weight: the cold boulders of ill-will, anger or envy, or the warm, thick honey of love, encouragement, mercy and laughter. We have the power to choose which words we hurl at those around us, even those who appear to deserve the best a sass-master can deliver. Lord, tame my tongue!