One of the strongest messages contained in the epistle of James is the importance of controlling what you say about and to others. James absolutely says that angry and disrespectful speech is not the way to express your love for your neighbors. Hateful and angry words reveal the inner workings of your heart, your soul, and your mind. When you slice and dice another person with your words, aren’t you essentially saying that you are superior to that person? But aren’t we all equal in the eyes of God?
Controlling what you say and how you communicate your thoughts is necessary to deliver effective messages and constructive criticism when necessary. Part of that control is to stop talking and start listening. You need to listen to who you are talking to, so you can understand their side of the story and let them know of your concern for their situation. Truly listening to others is becoming a lost practice. Now people pay therapists to truly listen to what they have to say. The other person’s opinions and decisions are just as important to them as your opinions are to you.
We all make mistakes, and we are all sinners. One of those sins is speaking in anger to our family or neighbors. When you see a character acting angry on a TV show or movie, don’t you wonder about the mental stability of that person? The flashes of anger in the show probably make you think, what bad things will that character do in upcoming scenes? The same logic applies to verbal abuse at home or in the workplace. People begin to wonder what bad things might be coming up next.
The book of James goes into detail to clarify exactly how bad it is to speak words of anger or disrespectful words. James says that speaking in anger may lead to the loss of your salvation.
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. therefore, get rid of all moral _ lth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. (James 1:19–21 NIV, bold added)
Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. (James 1:26 NIV)
Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check. When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what (sic that) a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. 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. 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. Can both fresh water and salt water _ ow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a _ g tree bear olives; or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. (James 3:1–12 NIV, bold added)
Consider that your evil thoughts are the first steps toward sinning and condemnation. This is borne out by the Tenth Commandment (Exodus 20:17 RSVCE, bold added) “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” Learn more about the 10 Commandments in the Chapter 3, “Which of the 10 Commandments is the Least Important?” in my book, The Bible’s Hidden Treasure/ John P. Hageman, M.S., C.H.P. (jamesbibleshiddentreasure.com)
Coveting and lusting after what you desire are merely thoughts, and these thoughts are a sin in violation of a Commandment! Therefore, such thoughts are evil and eternally self-destructive. To turn away from this mental sinning, to drive out the devil from your mind, you need to turn off or shut down such thoughts. Simply think of good and Godly things to replace evil thoughts.
Evil thoughts lead to evil words and/or evil actions. Some evil actions may be to carry out the words spoken in anger, spoken out of selfish desire or in retaliation to what you spoke in anger. When you speak maliciously against anyone else, aren’t you making them your enemy and not your beloved neighbor? James further explains that quarreling with others can come from your wanting what you don’t have, being envious, or being jealous.
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (James 4:1–3 NIV, bold added)
James further explains that judging someone else without mercy is wrong. Mercy is to consider the other person’s side of the story and to be able to forgive them.
Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment [condemnation]. (James 2:12-13 NIV, bold added)
God has many similar references where controlling what you say is vitally important. Some examples of this are in Matthew 12:34–37, Matthew 15:8–20, and Job 27:3:
You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned. (Matthew 12:34–37 NIV, bold added)
“They worship Me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.” Jesus called the crowd to Him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not de_ le them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what de_ les them.” Then the disciples came to Him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?” He replied, “Every plant that My heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.” “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. these are what defi le a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.” (Matthew 15:8–20 NIV, bold added)
As long as I have life within me, the breath of God in my nostrils, my lips will not say anything wicked, and my tongue will not utter lies. (Job 27:3–4 NIV, bold added)
Speaking an oath is also mentioned in James, where he addresses what you need to say when giving sworn testimony. You don’t have the power to uphold or back up your oath based on the support of things beyond your control. this is mentioned in James 5:12 and is further explained in Matthew 5:33–37.
Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned. (James 5:12 NIV)
Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.” But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply “Yes” or “No”; anything beyond this comes from the evil one [or from evil]. (Matthew 5:33–37 NIV, bold added)
In conclusion, the Bible fully recognizes that it is indeed difficult to control what you think and say and how you speak to your family and neighbors. That is why you need to practice every day to control your anger, your disrespectful and sinful thoughts and the words you say to and about others, in order to stay on the narrow path that takes you to heaven.