There are different reasons people “curse” their fellow human beings, to use James’ terminology (James 3:9). Sometimes, when people have been hurt, speaking against the hurting party (even if the hurt-er doesn’t know about it, which is safer) is simply a way to get them back. So it’s a subtle bit of revenge.
But usually, the motive is more complicated: if I can make someone look bad, then, in comparison, I look good.
- “She’s not very good with her money. She goes to Starbucks every day for a $5 drink.” Implication – I am good with my money. People should be more like me.
- “I don’t think he’s ever put in a full day’s work.” Implication – I do know how to work. You should see me show up at 7 a.m. every day.
- “She’s really let herself go.” Implication – I’m too health conscious and disciplined to ever let that happen. I’ve got it altogether.
James helps us to see the illogical nature of speaking poorly of others, and thus helps us to see the cure for our cursed gossip…
With (the tongue) we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. James 3:9-10 (ESV)
Somehow the key to stopping the negative tongue is in seeing the illogical nature of praising God with our tongue and also cursing people made in His image. James seems to be saying that when we curse people, we are in some small way, cursing God. You might say it’s like burning someone in effigy: the subjects of hated dictators have been known to make scarecrow like figures of the rulers and set them aflame. It’s not the same thing as burning the dictator himself, but it expresses how the people feel.
The difference is that when we talk badly about our philandering boss, I don’t think we realize what we’re doing. So, maybe we simply need to do a better job at remembering this truth: The boss is made in the image of God. To curse her is to curse Him, and if you’re a Christian, I’m absolutely certain you don’t want to be doing that.
And one more thing…the main reason you use your tongue to praise God is because of what He has done for you at the cross…in the greatest act of love the world has ever known. You bless Him because He loved you by taking your place. So, ask the Lord to help you get your “good feelings” from that, not from subtle verbal comparisons with someone who just happens to have a weakness you don’t have.
Focusing on the cross will help you to feel the love, and you will naturally pass it on to others…sometimes just by simply keeping your mouth closed.
We love because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19 (ESV)