By Tom Brown – Minister, Public Speaker, Radio Personality
I knew that I wanted to be in radio at a very early age. Shortly after I committed my life to Jesus Christ as a 9-year-old, something sparked in me. Radio had a magnetism for my attention, but I was not normal in my attraction. I was not all that interested in the songs being played, at least in my pre-teen years, I wanted to hear the DJ speak. I distinctly remember punching the button on the radio in the dashboard of my dad’s avocado green Chevy pickup, with a satisfying clunk of sound and feel, to switch away from a song in hopes of finding a DJ ‘doing his thing.’ I also remember a rather odd conversation between two Tulsa morning DJ’s; Billy Parker, morning host of my dad’s favorite country station KVOO, and the morning host of a competing station KRMG, John Erling. Only years later did I fully understand the ‘insider speak’ and how profound that bit of radio was. My desire for radio had other impacts on me as well. Rules on language that could be used were much more strict; I made it a point not to ever curse, not from piety as a good Southern Baptist kid, but because I thought I would be kicked off the radio if I slipped. Because of my study and practice of my chosen profession, I am fully aware of the power that spoken words have to move, to inspire, or to harm.
James, the brother of Jesus, has some great wisdom to share about the power of the tongue. “So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” [i] If you are like me, you can instantly recall a harsh or critical word that was spoken to you many years ago. Unfortunately, I can also recall far too many times that my words wounded someone I love. I have been married over 30 years so you would think that I could easily and genuinely speak life to Mary, but I fail all the time.
If you do a quick search of ‘tongue’ in a Bible program or app, two books stand out with a lot of instances: Job and Psalms. At first glance that seems like two opposite themes. When you think of the book of Job, sadness, turmoil, mourning, pain, and suffering come to mind. The Psalms generally spark thoughts of praise, thankfulness, joy, and comfort. How can it be that the tongue is so prominent in such opposites? I think it is as simple as the fact that the tongue truly has the power to speak life and death. It has the power to lift up and tear down. The title of this column is a not so subtle reference to a recent hit song from Christian musician Toby Mac; Speak Life. A powerful lyric, in part:
“When the sun won’t shine and you don’t know why
Look into the eyes of the broken hearted
Watch ’em come alive as soon as you speak hope
You speak love, you speak
You speak life,.”[ii]
Think about the look on the face of a young child when you praise something they just created. Beautiful, right?
One more thing I would like to mention that has to do with our current active culture. Texting, tweeting, and posting has desensitized our sensibilities and made kindness a forgotten element of our communications. All of these methods of communication are still just extensions of our tongue and requisite that we remain committed to speaking life.
Can we maybe just forsake the dopamine rush of the likes which validate our witty comebacks and put downs and instead speak life?
You can listen to Tom every weekday morning on 89.7 The Word at 9 AM on the program Koinonia. Tom Brown and The Smile Club is also on Spirit 106.3 every weekday afternoon 3 – 7 PM.