On a recent Sunday afternoon I violated every known law of fatherhood: I went girl clothes shopping with my wife and teenage daughter. Not only that, but I suggested the idea.
I’m no legal expert, but I don’t believe I was technically responsible for my actions prior to entering the apparel store. I was in a semi-conscious haze induced by a mixture melted cheese, meat, refried beans and habanero sauce; that’s the only reason I can imagine why, afterwards, I remarked on the close proximity of the store to the restaurant.
I am sure it sounded something like this: mumble, mumble, clothes shopping, mumble, mumble, burrito. *Hiccup*
If you are a guy and you have a teenage daughter, or if you are a guy and you have friends who have teenage daughters, or if you are a teenage guy and you are looking for a girlfriend, then you know about the type of stores that sell “clothing” to teenage girls. (You will also understand why I put quotation marks around the word clothing.)
Most of these stores seem to fully adopt a “less is more” mentality, except when it comes to the volume level of the music they play. It is a known fact that sounds greater than 85 decibels (db) can cause hearing loss after only an hour-and-a-half, sounds greater than 100db can cause hearing loss after 15 minutes and sounds greater than 140db can cause instant hearing loss. I am convinced the decibel level of the store we visited must have been 5000.
Where the less is more philosophy came into play was in the decorations, the clothing and the helpfulness of the staff.
Fortunately for my wife and daughter, there was a “father’s section” near the front which had all the warmth and comfort of solitary confinement. From there I was able to sit on a cold metal bench and look out the entrance at passers-by while fondly recalling my days of freedom, furtively penning my version of the “The Gulag Archipelago” on squirreled away receipt paper.
After the salsa fog lifted I was able to reflect and see where my tongue had led me.
The writer of the eponymous letter, James, likely had something a little different in mind when he wrote about the use and misuse of the tongue. In chapter 3 he wrote, “For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body… but no human being can tame the tongue” (3:2, 8).
James was writing to Christians who were dispersed (literally, scattered like hand-tossed seed) across the Roman Empire. They were wrestling with the trials they were facing since, at that time, the Roman Empire was not friendly towards their faith. James wrote to them saying that the difficulties they faced, which included persecution and death, was an opportunity for them to display their faith to a world that did not believe in Jesus.
In other words, the Christians were to show their faith through their behavior; their actions should reflect the faith they say they possessed. It was in this section of the letter that James wrote about the tongue.
James’ main point was that the tongue can be a powerful force for good or evil. With good words we can build up, with wicked words we can rip apart. He said that with our tongues 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 and sisters], these things ought not to be so.”
How many of us have used our tongues to rip apart our family members or the ones we love the most? Furthermore, how many Christians praise God with their mouths and later insult their wife, husband, child, parent, etc.? Answer to both: all of us.
Every human alive wrestles with what they say; Christians are no different. However, we are called to use our tongues to reflect our faith in Jesus Christ. Therefore, we are to be careful in what we say and when we say it, and when we misuse our tongue, we are to be quick to admit the wrong, apologize and try to make amends. After all, this is why Jesus died and rose again: because we cannot do right (i.e., be holy) on our own.
The Bible says the tongue will get us into all kinds of trouble disproportionate to its size; James says the tongue can be a “fire”. Yet Christians are to use their tongues to reflect their faith day in and day out.
I think I learned my lesson of the impact a tongue set on fire can do. Next time I eat chips and habanero sauce, I will remember not to mention shopping.