Be Consistent in Speech
9 With the tongue we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in God’s likeness. 10 Blessing and cursing come out of the same mouth. My brothers and sisters, these things should not be this way. 11 Does a spring pour out sweet and bitter water from the same opening? 12 Can a fig tree produce olives, my brothers and sisters, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a saltwater spring yield fresh water. (James 3:9-12)
Last week, we read on how the tongue’s nature is to rebel and cause destruction, being “full of deadly poison” (v. 8). In this section, James shows that the tongue can do both good and bad. Starting with verse 9, a positive feature the tongue can do is “bless our Lord and Father.” David shows in Psalm 103:1-5 the amazing blessings from the Lord and responds with praise with his entire being, “My soul, bless the Lord, and all that is within me, bless his holy name. My soul, bless the Lord, and do not forget all his benefits. He forgives all your iniquity; he heals all your diseases. He redeems your life from the Pit; he crowns you with faithful love and compassion. He satisfies you with good things; your youth is renewed like the eagle.” Yet, on the negative side, the tongue can “curse people who are made in God’s likeness.” To curse an individual means to express anger upon them, including insulting speech and profane language.
Verse 10 highlights the dangers of such inconsistencies, blessing the Lord and yet, with the same mouth, cursing others “made in God’s likeness.” Double Minded actions like this should not be in a believer’s nature. “These things should not be this way.”
Verses 11 to 12 illustrate the consistency of nature, in which James asks two questions that should elicit a “no” response: “Does a spring pour out sweet and bitter water from the same opening? Can a fig tree produce olives, my brothers and sisters, or a grapevine produce figs?” As pointed out by Thomas Lea, “The illustrations from nature would have been familiar to inhabitants of Palestine. Areas around the Dead Sea contained many salty springs. Farther north of the Dead Sea travelers could find springs emitting fresh water. One spring could produce only one type of water.” Likewise, a tree can only produce one type of fruit naturally. James makes it very clear that believers need to be consistent then in their speech, speaking words that would edify both the Lord and His creation made in His likeness, others.
Isaac De Guzman