Were you ever taught, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all”? I was. My parents were trying to teach me a few lessons, including that not everything that comes into your mind needs to be said. They were building filters in at an early age. I know people who don’t have any filters. He things they say are almost comical, if they weren’t so sad. They are often saying the truth, but not in a way that gets heard.
When I’m developing a relationship with someone, one of the first conversations I have with them is about the truth. I let them know that if they ask me a question, I’m going to tell them the truth, whether they want to hear it or not. I also will try to give them that truth in love because as Warren Wiersbe said, “The truth without love is brutality.” I’ve found that the brutal truth is just like not having a filter.
So why do we watch what we say? As James 3:6 says, the tongue can be a world of evil. Even though it’s a small member of our body, it can destroy relationships that have taken a lifetime to build. James 3:5 says, “Just think of how large a forest can be set on fire with a tiny spark” (GNT). He was reminding us of how small words from a small member of our body can burn down things that have taken years to build.
I believe he was also teaching us to watch what we say so that we will get along with others. James concludes the chapter by saying, “You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor” (MSG). We are to be developing healthy community, and the way to that is learning to control what we say, and how we say it. If you’re not sure what needs to be said or how it needs to be said, ask God for wisdom. A well placed word brings life rather than destruction.