Growing up, one of my favorite movies to watch was Batman Forever. Albeit a little cheesy, the epic battle between good and evil was gripping for young boy who pined after adventure. One of the most interesting characters in that movie is Two-Face. Two-Face is a villain that had one side of his body burned by acid, forming a perfect split: one-half perfectly normal, the other horribly deformed. This affects his mind, producing two vastly different characters in one body, each with its own personality, tastes, and actions, yet having a unified goal. Everything he does has two different halves including the clothes he wears and the lair he occupies.
What in the world does Two-Face have to do with James? In 3:8-12, James discusses the words we say. Our tongue is an untamable “restless evil” that can be, and all too frequently is, unleashed in a destructive rampage. We can lash out, cut down, belittle, deride, abuse, mock, curse, and taunt, all with our poisonous tongues. But, conversely, we know we are called to “let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth,” (Ephesians 4:29) and to “open my lips, that my mouth may declare your praise.” (Psalm 51:15).
These things are polar opposites. They are diametrically opposed. When we fall into this habit of using our words to praise God and to put other people down, we become like Two-Face. It appears that good and evil spring forth from the same source. However, that is impossible. Two-Face has a “normal” side. He can say “normal” things. But, no one would say, “Oh, Two-Face is a normal guy, and he’s pretty neat to be around, as long as you stay on his good side.” His entire character is corrupted and evil.
Our words matter. Jesus, rather harshly, asserts, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks…. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:34, 36-27). Just like Two-Face is wholly corrupt, if part of our self is using words to give glory to God and another part of our self is using words to curse what God has made, the same is true about us. We can’t fool God by showing Him our “good” side. He sees everything we do and hears every word we say.
This is a bitter reality. I know that I have failed many times to use my words well, and knowing myself, I’m sure it will happen again. But, if “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks,” then there is some good news. David cries out in Psalm 51:10 “create in me a clean heart, O God.” Because of what Jesus did for us, we have a new heart. Through the process of sanctification, as God draws us closer to Himself, our hearts become more like his. And, as our hearts grow to be more like His, our words will become more like His having “such a word as is good for edification, according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”