Plain Talk: Taming of the Tongue
Our worship series on “Plain Talk” wraps up on Sunday. It has focused on communication, conflict, getting along together and how people in the church speak to and care for each other. Sometimes it seems that “plain talk” is a euphemism for permission to be blunt and rude, but that’s not how the book of James sees it. James has some memorable phrases, like a series of bumper stickers: “Faith without works is dead” or “Be doers of the word” or “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger” or “no one can tame the tongue.” James is about an active faith, or as we like to say at PVUMC, being God’s love in action. At one point he sums it all up with the phrase, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress.”
We think of James as writing in the tradition of wisdom literature from the Hebrew Bible, like the books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Job and Psalms. God’s wisdom is about more than knowledge. It’s fundamentally about right living and making sure we are walking the talk, doing what we say and avoiding the hypocrisy that can be such a common criticism of religion. James does hit the nail on the head for our current time when he writes how all of us can benefit from being “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger.” We see the damage from divisive and caustic talk. We know how terrible it feels to be on the receiving end of abusive and offensive words. We also know how bad it is for us when we deliver them and realize the hurt we have laid on someone.
When James says we need to be quick to listen and slow to talk, it can mean we need to listen more deeply, below the surface. The recent news about celebrity suicides reminds us of the tragedy when people around us feel isolated and believe they have nowhere to turn or no one who will listen to the ache within their hearts. To me this about being able to talk and listen in ways that invite God fully into the conversation, to enlarge our listening and slow down our often quick responses. It’s about being more present to the people we are with. It’s about listening. It’s about realizing that when we are more concerned with receiving what someone has to tell us (and not just thinking about what we will say to them in response) then we are having a real conversation. Then we are giving our attention in a way that allows God to breathe into our conversation. Then it’s easier to avoid the divisive and damaging talk that is so prevalent nowadays. Sunday we worship God who always has some “plain talk” to offer us!
Dave Summers, PhD
602-840-8360 Ext 131
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