January 25, 2016
9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
I am known for my discoveries of the obvious; for seeing what is often hidden in plain sight. Recently while thinking about the idea of integrity, it occurred to me that the opposite of integrity is dis-integrity. That’s not exactly a real word, though. Then it hit me. Disintegrate was the word I was looking for. When something is no longer integrated, it is disintegrated. Now when I think of the word, “disintegrate,” I typically think of something being blown to smithereens. In other words, while I think of “integrating” as putting two or more things together into a single whole, I do not think of disintegrating something as taking them apart. Rather, I think of it as destruction. In other words, neither the whole nor the parts exist any longer.
A person of true integrity cannot both praise God and curse people. Stated differently, a person who praises God and curses people is not a person of integrity. To praise God and curse people not only bears witness to the disintegration of your own personhood, it destroys the personhood of others. And while there is general application to all followers of Jesus, let’s remember James is making a specific appeal to those who would be teachers.
Let’s be clear about cursing. What we are not talking about here is using foul language. To curse someone is to do the opposite of blessing them. My friend, Chris Tomlin, tells a story about a middle school choir teacher who upon listening to his voice told him he could not sing and he should cease trying. It was a curse. Because he had sensed from a young age that his singing voice would be a vital part of his calling, it devastated him. If you know anything about Chris, you know that God turned this curse into an extraordinary blessing as today as he is one of the most prolific worship leaders and the most sung songwriter in the world. How many others respond to a curse by damning and disqualifying themselves?
Let’s press it one more step. What James is driving at is that a person who blesses God and curses people is not actually blessing God. It reminds me of the bold starkness of John in his short homily near the end of the Bible.
“Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness.” 1 John 2:9.
To bless God and curse people, all of whom are made in God’s image, is a non-sequitur. It’s as absurd as a fig tree producing olives or a fresh water spring gushing forth with salt water. Not only does it not happen, it can’t happen.
Let’s be mindful of this and be willing to assess the authenticity of our own relationship with God based on the way we bless or curse other people. I don’t know about you, but I can easily drift over into “cursing” territory—especially in my politics. If we find ourselves cursing or “un-blessing” other people, let’s ask ourselves some hard questions and move toward some critical course corrections.
One more text for the road today:
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29
1. Can you remember a time when someone’s words blessed you? How about when their words cursed you? Reflect on those experiences?
2. What is it like for you when you are around another person who talks about other people with words that effectively curse them? How about when their words bless other people?
3. How about you; do you tend to be a person who blesses or curses other people with your words? Publicly? Privately? Are you grasping how cursing other people effectively negates any praise you have for God? Reflect on that a bit. Agree? Push back?
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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. firstname.lastname@example.org.