This passage is most often preached from the paradigm of being able to control what we say; but if we take into account the opening statement, verse 1, we see that the lesson to be learned flows through the paradigm of what we teach. In case you are not aware, we are teaching all the time. This is reality that few of us recognize, or take seriously – but that does not make it any less a reality. Scripture recognizes the power and authority that is placed when a person is designated a “teacher,” and or claims themselves to be a “teacher” – especially a teacher of God’s Word! What we know is that it is powerful enough to understand that “teaching” is an unintended consequence of our behavior and that is a big enough responsibility that not enough people recognize; let alone when we are viewed, or view ourselves as a teacher and set about intentionally teaching others.
And what do we teach others? Among other things, we are teaching what we believe, in whom we believe, and how that translates to the lives that we lead. All of this is most evident in the words that come out of our mouths. It’s a “fruit of the Spirit” kind of thing. We are taught in James that if we behave immorally and/or treat people poorly, it reflects the fact that, provided we are saved in the first place, we are intentionally ignoring Holy Spirit who has filled us. Holy Spirit is God and God is Love and Love does not boast; is not proud; holds no account of wrongs; and forgives always. Our behavior should look more like that.
Yes we are discerning. Yes we measure our responses and choose our behaviors and NO, we do not have to open ourselves to pain, corruption and abuse from a sick world; but our responses to these influences should not be from a “fire with fire” or “eye for an eye” perspective. Get on your knees…open your heart…and listen - then submit, to God’s response. What happens next will astound you.