Ralphie and Taming the Tongue (James 3)

No one can tame the tongue.  James 3:9

Have you said a word that you wish you could take back?

When considering an example, I thought of Ralphie in the movie A Christmas Story. I don’t have to background this movie as everyone in the world watches it every Christmas – probably three times!

Setting in the movie:

A dreaded flat tire while driving that the father says he can change in four minutes. After the father leaves the car, the mother tells Ralphie to go help his father. It is a big moment for Ralphie as up until that moment he has never been asked to help his father with anything.

Ralphie’s job was to hold an upside-down hubcap in which his father placed the lug nuts from the wheel being changed. His father made a quick move knocking the lug nuts up into the air.

Ralphie said, “Fudge!”

I better let the dialogue from the movie take over here:

Only I didn’t say “Fudge.” I said THE word, the big one, the queen-mother of dirty words, the “F-dash-dash-dash” word!

It was all over – I was dead. What would it be? The guillotine? Hanging? The chair? The rack? The Chinese water torture? Hmmph. Mere child’s play compared to what surely awaited me.

I know, I know, such content in an Interruption! Perhaps this will be the one Interruption that I wish I could have back. But before you judge, have you watched A Christmas Story a billion times and laughed every time at this scene in the movie?

That one word, that one sentence, whether an expletive, or even more devastating, something spoken with cruel intent to damage the self-esteem of another. We all commit sins of the tongue.

The tongue is a fire, the very world of unrighteousness; the tongue is set among our body’s parts as that which defiles the whole body and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.  James 3:6

When offended, when slighted, the tongue is our “go-to” weapon. Some speak quickly while others bottle-up for a later outburst. We have moments when the tongue sets our life on fire.

Inevitable. What do we do to contain?

With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, these things should not be this way.  James 3:9-10

Learn to bless rather than curse. This is a discipline that you can achieve. Warning: It is a discipline that once achieved must be maintained. It is not like riding a bicycle that you can always do or clutch-shifting with a car. It’s more like running a mile in six minutes – if you don’t stay in shape, you will fail.

Jesus teaches how to develop and keep this discipline:

Whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other toward him.  Matthew 5:39

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.  Matthew 5:44

The Apostle Paul adds:

Bless those who persecute you, bless and curse not.  Romans 12:14

Turn the other cheek, pray for those who hurt you, speak blessings when someone curses you. We can do this! We don’t want to, and it takes an empowering of the Spirit of Peace to overwhelm the bondage of bitterness, but we can do this with God’s power.

Pray now:  God, give me the strength to speak blessings and to not curse, gossip, and slander those with whom I disagree.

Now, watch your conversations today as the Spirit will convict you. He will say, “Stop!”  At that moment, pray, bless, and turn the other cheek.

Can you imagine the power that the church would have today if we stopped the vitriol in the name of God and country, and spoke blessings while praying for our enemies?

Okay, I had A Christmas Story on pause. Back to the movie.

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