Monday, March 9, 2020

Water Words

Why is it so hard to say good things? When I open my mouth there seems to be an endless supply of complaining, criticism, and discouragement. I can think of so many times when I haven't thought about what I was about to say, so it came out in a way I later regretted.

Have you ever had your hot water run out on you? Maybe your water heater was broken, and you didn't realized it before you got in the shower. I've been there; it's not fun. Or maybe you were the last person taking a shower one morning, and there wasn't enough hot water. I've been there too; it's equally as frustrating. In both situations, my instinct was to turn the cold water knob a little less and, if that didn't work, turn the hot water knob a little more.

Maybe the problem with my words is that I'm turning the wrong knob. The solution to my negativity is not to be less negative. The solution is to fill my mouth with the things worthy of being spoken.

The book of James deals with such practical, real-life topics that it is hard to believe it was written two millennia ago. James compares our words not to hot and cold water, but to fresh and salty (and you thought salty was new slang). He writes, "With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water" (James 3:9-12, NIV).

James would tell me to stop trying to turn down the cold water of "cursing" and start turning up the hot water of "praise."

Or he might tell me to stop trying to pick olives off a fig tree. The fig tree in my back yard has just started leafing. In the last two weeks it has gone from barren to a healthy growth of leaves, some already as wide as three inches. It's much too early for figs, but in another month or so, as summer gets closer, I'll become impatient and start checking the progress of the figs more often than is needed. Some years are lean and some years are plentiful, but in all the years this tree has been in my back yard I've never once found an olive growing on it.

Jesus himself also compared our words to fruit. In Luke 6:43-45 He tells the crowd, “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of."

According to Jesus, my mouth speaks negativity because my heart is filled with it. Ouch.

Like my fig tree, I believe in personal leafing. What seems barren can produce fruit. To say it another way, when properly connected, God can provide endless streams of hot water to our soul by warming the cold reserves in the tank of our heart.

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