When I was in high school, I traveled with a Marine Biology class to the Bahamas. We spent the week living at a dive station. The station also served as our classroom, our dining room, and our headquarters for our snorkeling excursions.
The fresh water required for the dive station had to be hauled in every couple of days in a large water truck. One day, as I was hanging around the station, I saw a water truck that looked very similar, but it was parked in a different location than before. My curiosity got the best of me, and I asked the driver what he was doing. He said that he was emptying the holding tank for the sewage. My mind raced to one crucial question: Was this the same truck that had been bringing our drinking water the rest of the week? ACK! I asked the driver about the matter. He assured me that it was not the same truck.
Imagine for a moment, though, that it was the same truck. Imagine too that the driver assured me he had cleaned the truck’s tank out really, really well. If the drinking water truck and the sewage truck were one in the same, he could not possibly clean it enough for me to ever drink water from its tank.
There is a passage in the book of James that refers to our speech that comes to mind when I think of the trucks. 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 saltwater flow from the same spring? James 3:9-11
What we would not tolerate for our drinking water, we often tolerate in our speech. It brings to mind a teenage friend of mine who heard one of his peers swearing harshly at another young man.
My teenage friend brought some levity to the situation by asking, “Do you kiss your grandma with that mouth?” During his ministry, Jesus reminded us that a man speaks out of what’s in his heart.
Our hearts can be a source of hurt, hate and harm, or they can be a source of help, hope and healing.
Joel Gay is Pastor of Wilmington Church of the Nazarene.