We experience a lot of spills in our house. With three young kids and an unruly hound dog, we seem to be constantly mopping up a variety of food and drinks. It took us a while, but we finally instated a “no milk in the playroom” rule because milk was getting spilled and we wouldn’t know it until a few days later when the sour milk smell had permeated the room. When you give small children full cups, whatever is in them will inevitably spill out.
The same thing happens with our hearts. Throughout his book, James talks about our need to tame our tongues. He calls the tongue “a restless evil”. In chapter three, verses 8-12 he says, “but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it 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. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and saltwater? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water”.
So how is it that our tongues pour forth both blessings to our Heavenly Father, and stinging, divisive words to those around us? Jesus answers this question in Matthew 12:33-35: “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for a tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.”
Just like any drink in the hands of a toddler will inevitably spill out, so will whatever is in our hearts. Just like we needed to establish a rule for what drinks go into the playroom, so do we need to establish rules for what goes into our hearts and minds. A few good places in scripture to start are Philippians 4:8 and 2 Corinthians 10:5, which say respectively, “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things”, and “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ”.
When we think on things that are true, honorable, just, etc. those will permeate our hearts and will spill out in our words. That will “smell” so much sweeter than curses (or spilled milk).