“How many people can stand on a blue whale’s tongue?” My daughter loves stumping people with bizarre questions about animal facts, and this is one of her favorites. You can’t dodge the question by pointing out that no one can stand on the tongue of the largest animal in the world and live to tell the story. Unless you answer fifty, you will flunk her quiz.
But here’s another question: who has a tongue that’s even more powerful than that of a mega-ton whale? The answer, of course, is that we do. Good old Homo sapiens—the species with the most powerful tongue in the world. James observes with frustration,
“People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. . . . Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!” (James 3:7-10).
Yesterday I was reading a book about all kinds of high-minded ideals, like loving others even when they don’t deserve it. The book made me feel good, as though I had become more virtuous simply by reading about virtue. But then a quarrel broke out in the kitchen. Irritated that my peaceful day was being disrupted by two children who couldn’t stop arguing, I yelled at them, telling them in no uncertain terms that I had had enough!
As my words trailed off, it occurred to me that the virtuous feelings that had filled me just a few seconds earlier had been replaced by a whole lot of anger. My daughters weren’t the only ones in the house guilty of breaking the peace.
Like James, I am frustrated, aware that I can praise God one minute and then speak harshly the next. But James also says that the wisdom of heaven is “peace loving” and “gentle at all times.” Today I pray that God’s wisdom will do in me what I cannot possibly do in myself—make me gentle at all times.