Cursing, taking God’s name in vain, violates the Third Commandment (Exodus 20:7). In the third chapter of his Epistle, James warns how easily we sin with out tongues. He underscores that point when, in James 3:9–10, he points out the utter contradiction of using our tongues to bless God and then using the same organ to curse men, who are made in the likeness of God.
What sets mankind apart from the rest of creation? God made us in his image. Instead of just speaking us into existence, the pattern set earlier in Genesis 1, God deliberately creates mankind, male and female, in his own image and likeness. Although sin warps that image, mankind is still image of God. That gives value to human life (Genesis 9:6) and is reason to protect even the most vulnerable in our culture — the yet to be born and the elderly. Taking life unjustly sins, not only against the victim, but also against the God who created that person in his image.
Image of God has broader implications for our conduct. Pornography objectives women as objects of lust rather than treating them with respect as God’s image. Abuse, whether adults against children, men against women, or the less frequent women against men, treats people as objects to be used rather than valued.
Most of us in Christian circles try to be careful to guard our language against using curse words. But do we realize that when we mock and demean those with whom we disagree, we are mistreating those who are image of God? Our tongues are attacking, not only women and men, but God himself, who created them in his image. Tragically, we can be so persuaded of the correctness of our cause, so sure that we are defending the truth, that we can blind ourselves to how demeaning and mocking our language is.
James points out how contradictory of a Christian profession and of Christian worship this mis-use of the tongue is: “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.” (James 3:10, NIV). Had James been using modern social media he might have put it: This. should. not. be! Christians, church officers, and church courts need to take seriously the impact of the discourse we allow.
Thankfully, James points you to our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, our risen, ascended Savior, who pours out wisdom from heaven. That Spirit can do what we, in ourselves, are incapable of — tame our tongues. As that happens, we need use our tongues consciously to bless God and not to abuse those made in his image.