“With [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.” James 3:9-10
The Bible has a lot to say about what we say and how we say it. Sadly, our words often lack the godly quality of graciousness. But not only do words have consequences; they also reveal our true nature. James 3:9-12 helps us understand what speaking graciously looks like.
First, James warns us to avoid hypocrisy (vv9-10). Think about your typical lunch conversation after church. Does it ever include gossip about other church members or criticism of church leaders? Well, singing worship songs in church then tearing someone down at lunch reveals hypocrisy. James says we “ought not to be this way.”
That kind of inconsistency is as unnatural for a follower of Christ as fresh water and salt water coming from the same spring (v11). Colossians 4:6 says that our words should, “always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt…” Salt is good, in measure. Likewise, speaking graciously is intentional. Even when difficult conversations are necessary, our words need to be measured carefully. Just as salt heals and irritates at the same time, too much rebuke (or even too much cheer) is too much salt (Proverbs 25:20).
Anyone who has swallowed a mouthful of ocean water understands that while salt is an excellent seasoning, it would be an awful fountain! Gracious words, like fresh water, give life and nourishment. They are refreshing (Proverbs 10:11).
James then points out that a tree can produce only one kind of fruit (v12). In the same way, our words should display the fruit of our resurrected nature rather than our old, sinful nature (Galatians 5:19-24). Producing both kinds of fruit is abnormal. The key is the root; the source. You see, refreshing words have a source just as surely as a freshwater spring has a source. We’ll never consistently produce gracious words unless the Holy Spirit is our source.
So, are you producing any “old fruit?” Do your words go down like a cool spring, or are they choked down like salt water? A hypocritical, inconsistent tongue is a warning that something is wrong. Praising God but then engaging in gossip, slander, or criticism is unnatural and abnormal for a believer. Speaking graciously is the product of yielding our hearts to the Holy Spirit’s control.