The Power of The Tongue
The tongue. The human tongue is a conglomeration of eight muscles. It is used throughout the day to perform several functions, such as tasting, breathing, swallowing and speaking. Many of us grew up hearing that the tongue was the strongest muscle in the body. While that is not true, it is perhaps an understandable myth. Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” It may not be the strongest muscle, but it can offer hope and healing, light and love, justice and joy.
As we begin this journey of Holy Week in the Gospel of John, we find Jesus arriving at the home of Lazarus, whom Jesus has recently raised from the dead. As they are gathering at table, Mary takes an extravagant amount of expensive perfume to anoint Jesus’ feet. Mary intends this as an act of love and reverence for the one who means so much to her and all who have been in his presence. Judas Iscariot takes exception to this blessing and raises the concern that Mary’s actions have been wasteful. He asserts that this perfume could have been sold to raise money for the poor. Jesus wastes no time with this subterfuge because he sees through the façade of the words to the intent of the heart. When we are speaking, do our words and our intent align?
Perhaps you’ve heard the idiom, “Say what you mean and mean what you say.” Because our words have power and can either bring light or darkness, it is incumbent upon us to speak with a pure heart. There are myriad scriptures that espouse this teaching, but perhaps none as clearly as what Jesus taught in Matthew 12:34b, “What fills the heart comes out of the mouth.” Judas’ words appeared to have a concern for the poor at their root, but his heart was full of selfishness, greed and the priorities of the world. What resides in our hearts?
One critical aspect of the Lenten journey is to prepare us for Easter, a day of jubilant celebration and the triumph of life over death. And, at its core, the season commemorates the faithfulness of Christ, the Messiah, Emmanuel, whose very life and every word was aligned with his heart, which never wavered from God’s will. Although the world often misunderstood Jesus’ words or attempted to misrepresent them, he never faltered from an alignment of heart and tongue. As we either prepare for baptism or remember our baptism on Easter Sunday morning, may we resonate with the hymnist who wrote, “Give me a clean heart so I may serve thee. Lord, fix my heart, so that I may be used by thee. For I’m not worthy of all those blessings. Give me a clean heart, and I’ll follow thee.” Will we allow our hearts to be cleansed by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit?
During these days of Holy Week, as we live in a world plagued with deception, may we allow the power of the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth of our hearts to us. And when we receive this truth, may we humble ourselves before God to be cleansed of anything that is not of God. Then may we emerge on Easter Sunday morning fully aligned with the will of God and fully alive in Christ, in whom is all truth and love. May our words then bring hope, healing and joy to a world yearning for truth. May we use the power of our tongues to the glory of God.
May the victory of shalom, which is ours through the power of compassionate love, be yours on Easter Sunday morning and every morning. Hallelujah! He is risen!
Bishop LaTrelle Easterling
Baltimore-Washington and Peninsula-Delaware Conferences
The United Methodist Church