Shall It Never Be (James 3:9-12)

Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.” (James 3:9–10, AV)

Certain things just do not fit together. I remember in 1973, attending the Army Ranger School. Part of the training was participating in a 12-day patrol through the swamps in the panhandle of Florida. We had little sleep, little food, and had to get our water from the land. It was in the summer and with the heat, we needed a lot of water. Each one of us had two canteens or maybe three; I do not remember exactly. However, every day we would have to top off our canteens. The water in the swamp was dirty and the Army gave us iodine tablets to put in each canteen to supposedly kill anything that would harm us. Frankly that made the water taste rather off-putting.

However, while walking through the swamp, every once in a while, we would come across a strip of sand running through the swamp where the water was cool and crystal clear. The swamp water was normally a dirty color and had its peculiar musty odor, but here right in the middle we would find a crystal-clear stretch. We would always try to wait until we found one of these cool running springs of water to fill up. We were not supposed to do this (and I now advise against it), but we would often conveniently forget to put our iodine tablets in the canteens when we filled up with the water from one of these springs. This water tasted so good. It was one of the luxuries that we had while on the patrol.

The point is that there was a marked difference between the pure water from the spring and the dirty water from the swamp. One was desirable and good; the other was not. James in writing about one’s speech uses a metaphor like this to explain the incompatibility of vile speech with the good speech that should proceed from our lips. “Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?” (James 3:11, AV).

There are many people professing to be Christians now days whose speech is inconsistent and does not reflect a testimony of true faith. These people often attend church worship services on Sunday and sing the hymns to praise and bless God, but then hurl the harshest of words towards people, made in God’s likeness, throughout the week. These professing Christians from whom both blessing and cursing flow are an oxymoron as they profess to be one thing and then act like another. The message they send out to the unbeliever speaks negatively of the power of true faith. Their testimony is destroyed by their words.

True believers are to act differently. We are to strive for consistency in our speech. Yes, sometimes the people we meet do certain things that grate on our nerves, but cursing them in either word or our silent thought is not the answer. We must consider how to speak the truth in love. Only the Holy Spirit will grant to us the grace to do so when needed. Again, we must learn to stay in step with the Spirit. Yes, we will miss the mark with our speech on occasion, but foul speech towards another should never be characteristic of our lives. Moreover, when we do miss the mark, we who believe will know it, and we must confess it to God (1 John 1:9) and give a humble apology to the one we have offended.

Published by Steve Hankins, Th.D.

Steve has had extensive military, business and ministry experience. He has served for over 16 years in full time vocational ministry and many years of part time ministry in churches. He has led churches through start-up and recasting of vision. Now He resides on the Outer Banks of North Carolina where he is working to help smaller churches and believers to renew their hearts and regain the joy of the Lord.

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