Read James 3:9-12
9 With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image. Curses and blessings out of the same mouth!
10-12 My friends, this can’t go on. A spring doesn’t gush fresh water one day and brackish the next, does it? Apple trees don’t bear strawberries, do they? Raspberry bushes don’t bear apples, do they? You’re not going to dip into a polluted mud hole and get a cup of clear, cool water, are you? (THE MESSAGE)
When it comes to evaluating human nature we can go to extremes. One view is very bleak: we are terrible sinners incapable of doing any good unless we happen to be converted to Christianity. The other view is that we are all basically decent people who just need the right environment to express our innate goodness.
The truth may well be in between these extremes. True, we are incapable of acceptance by a perfect God without the mercy of the perfect Jesus. So there is no room for sentimental optimism. Then again, we are made in God’s image and thus are capable in some ways of reflecting his character. So there is no room for utter devaluation of human worth.
Each of us is capable of good and bad. Our text focusses on how this expresses itself in speech, but it has wider application. The Russian dissident Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn wrote of his experiences in a Siberian prison which allowed him to observe human behaviour in its extreme forms. This is what he wrote. “Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states or classes or political parties, but right through every human heart.”
Human beings are capable of great good and great evil. Those who are overwhelmed by the evil within are reminded of the fact that God loves them and values them. Those who ignore the evil within are reminded of the fact that Jesus had to be crucified to deal with the evil. Christians are neither optimists nor pessimists regarding human nature. They are realists.