The writer of the New Testament book of James takes a dim view of the human tongue.
While we would be lost without its ability to help us eat, swallow, taste, kiss and the like, the tongue also has a way of causing trouble. Here is what James has to say: “How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire … from the same mouth comes blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters this ought not to be.” (James 3:5, 6, 10)
Two current political candidates for the presidency seem to have set aside the Eighth Commandment dealing with how we are to speak about our neighbor.
While I’m willing to grant them their oft repeated claim to be among the best of Christians, their language toward one another has become coarse, rude, sophomoric and cruel. What ought to embarrass them seems only to dig them into a deeper ditch of false witness. I wish they would pay closer attention to what Martin Luther wrote in his catechism, his instructional booklet on the Ten Commandments, 500 years ago.
“Besides our own body, our spouse, and our property, we have one more treasure that is indispensable to us, namely, our honor and good reputation. For it is important that we not live among people in public disgrace and dishonor. Therefore God does not want our neighbors deprived of their reputation, honor, and character any more than of their money and possessions; God wants everyone to maintain self-respect before spouse, family and neighbor. Bearing false witness is nothing but a work of the tongue.”
As the political contest grows more intense in the coming months, it appears that honorable words will take a backseat to greater and greater gutter language and gutter politics. This really ought not be.
One candidate has worked hard to show a better, less bitter way forward. Perhaps his example will catch fire in a good way among all the candidates.
After all, honor and a good name are easily taken away but not easily restored, treasures not meant to be dragged through mud.
Kim Latterell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.