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Wisdom and the Tongue….

by Lori Twichell

Though I spend time daily studying the Bible, I rarely choose to share it. In my mind, those are God’s words and lessons for me, not necessarily for others.  I hate the idea that I might start to sound preachy. But sometimes something really resonates and I feel like it might touch someone else.

Tuesday’s devotion was all about the tongue and for anyone who knows my history, you know how personal that topic is for me.  For those who don’t know my backstory, here’s the thumbnail version. In 2014, I was diagnosed with cancer in my tongue. No, I didn’t drink. Or smoke. Or chew tobacco. (Yes, I was asked those questions daily for nearly 2 years.) I ended up having a large portion of my tongue removed and replaced with the inside of my wrist. Spending over a year of my life unable to eat, drink, or speak moved me into new areas of my life that I never could have imagined. Physically. Mentally. Spiritually.

Growing up as an only child, I was always an observer of people and dynamics in a room.  It came naturally to me to watch folks and observe their interactions. I understood social cues without being taught. But after not speaking for a year or more? That’s a superpower now. When you can’t speak, you can only observe and process.

My cancer diagnosis led me to start researching the tongue. Did you know that there are over 120 verses in the Bible about the tongue? If you’ve ever been in church for any amount of time you can repeat some of them. The power of life and death is in the tongue. Controlling the tongue. A tongue is like a ship’s rudder – it will take you in a direction.

When I saw the devotion this week about the tongue, I thought I knew everything that was coming. But the word of God is living. It meets you where you are. And today I was in a different place than I was almost 6 years ago. I got something new and I thought I would share.

Here are a few of the scriptures from the devotion:

“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.”  – James 1:19

Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.” – James 3:2

but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison.”  – James 3:8  

The following verse is the one that really got me.

Wisdom that comes from heaven. That’s interesting. It means that you can have the wisdom you receive from God, but there is acknowledgement that there are other kinds of wisdom. You could be book intelligent without being street smart. You can have experience on the battlefield or in the operating room or fighting crime. But that doesn’t make you all-knowing or understanding. Those types of wisdom can be useful, but they don’t bring peace. There’s a lot of these types of wisdom floating around these days. Food. Vitamins. Parenting. Our health. Politics. Science. Climate change. Our world. Money. Illness. The list goes on and on. The reality is that we’re still learning about so many of those things that in a few years, everything we think we know today will be obsolete and out of date. Example: I worked in a grocery store in high school and heard all about how plastic bags were going to save the environment over the old paper bags. Less trees being cut down after all. But now we have landfills overflowing with plastic bags and people are going back to recyclable bags or permanent shopping bags. Isn’t that what many of our grandparents used? Boxes, crates or the same bags each time?

That kind of wisdom isn’t all knowing or all encompassing. It’s from earth and it’s limited. Does that mean we should stop trying? By all means NO. We are called to be good stewards of the earth, our bodies, and the resources in our lives. We can’t do that if we have our heads in the sand. We must be wise. But we must also not put our faith wholly and fully into earthly wisdom because there’s so much we don’t understand.

Read the verse again.

The wisdom from above is pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 

If you are participating in a conversation that devolves into yelling, anger, egos, or using the Bible as a weapon against listening, that’s not coming from God. There’s a peace that comes with His wisdom.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Those other types of wisdom shouldn’t be discounted or dismissed. They just need to be in the proper place. Earthly wisdom is infinitely more impactful when tempered with the wisdom of God. Peace. Love. Compassion. Mercy. Good fruit. Sincere. These things are the harvest of wisdom from God. If those parts are missing, all the knowledge in the world becomes empty. You can’t use it the way it’s intended.

I have more thoughts on verse 18, but since we’re edging toward 1000 words, I’m thinking I’m lucky if any of you even made it to this sentence.  If any of you are still interested, we will look at verse 18 another time.