The start of a fresh year means new goals and aspirations for many of us. Every year, I start to think about the things I want to accomplish in the new year. I usually divide up my goals and aspirations into categories such as physical (exercise more, maybe even sign up for a half-marathon), spiritual (more time in prayer and reading the Bible, complete a sermon series on a specific topic), financial (save more or pay off debt) and so forth.
Out of curiosity, I researched last year’s top 5 New Year’s Resolutions. Of course, to no surprise, two of the five top goals had to do with living a healthier lifestyle and losing weight. When we think of living a healthier lifestyle we immediately conjure up images of marathon runners or buff cross-fit competitors. We think of eating no-sugar, no-fat, or no-whatever is the healthy food trend currently sweeping across the nation.
There’s no question that we should take good care of our bodies. In our own families, we should encourage and demonstrate healthy eating habits and reassure our children that it is indeed okay to engage in physical labor. (I say this playfully, but I’ve been around enough young children who don’t want to do anything that causes sweat or any kind of exertion that causes them to be uncomfortable.)
We are all aware of the devastating implications of living an unhealthy lifestyle. I still vividly remember taking a field trip back in sixth grade to a local hospital. They showed us a picture of a healthy lung next to a smoker’s blackened lung. Seeing that blackened lung was all I needed to realize smoking wasn’t an option for me.
As our bodies age, things just don’t work the same way as they used to anymore. Things start to sag and wrinkle. Have a few kids and as all mothers know, your body just isn’t the same as it used to be!
And so, as the New Year’s Resolutions portray, a large majority of us want to improve our health by working out more, eating better and consequently, hope we lose our unwanted weight along the way. (Why else would we save those pants we haven’t fit in several years?)
Makes sense, right? I know I feel better when I work out consistently and maintain a certain weight.
But what is a way that we can promote health without every getting on a treadmill or elliptical, without ever signing up for that 5k or marathon, or even changing our fast-food, junk-filled diets? (Before you get too excited and want the website or toll-free number to a magic diet pill… that’s not what I’m talking about here.)
What is a way that we can promote health not only in ourselves, but in our families? What is a way we can promote health that will change the way we live and think in our own homes? Do you want to know the secret? It’s not something your doctor, Dr. Oz, Oprah or the latest health guru with best-selling books will share with you.
What I’m talking about is something that dawned on me during a Bible Study. One of the best books I’ve read is Sharon Jaynes book, “The Power of a Woman’s Words.” If you haven’t read it, get it.
As we were going through the book, she brought up Proverbs 12:18. It says, “There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health.”
Read that verse again. I’ve read through Proverbs many, many times but reading it while doing her book study made the light bulb come on…. brightly. Was I using my tongue to promote health? If I was going to be honest with myself, I couldn’t say that I was, at least not consciously. Which of course made me think, what do I use my tongue to promote? If not health, then what?
What about you? Do you use your tongue to promote health in your marriage? What about with your children? Co-workers, neighbors or in-laws? What do you use your tongue for? To lift up or push down? To encourage or discourage? To share Godly counsel and wisdom or gossip and slander? To forgive or bring up the past?
The Proverb compares two completely different uses of the tongue. One is like the piercings of a sword. Yikes! I don’t have to personally be pierced by a sword to know that it’s painful and something I want to avoid! But are my words “piercing” someone? Are my words causing painful wounds to others?
Do your words discourage and hurt those you encounter? Maye even those you love most? Are you quick to attack your husband when he enters the door from work? Maybe he didn’t clean up the spilt coffee or put his dirty clothes in the hamper before he left for work…. I’m sure we all have a list of annoyances we could rattle off. Or maybe it’s your toddler driving you crazy, a rebel teenager or an intrusive, pushy in-law…
We read in the book of James 3:2-12:
“For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things.
See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.”
It’s easy to let loose and let the words fly. As we learn to tame our tongue (by God’s grace), let us also be conscious of what we are promoting with our words. Are we promoting life in our spouses, children and other relationships? Or are we promoting death, like the piercings of a sword?