James brings us a particularly painful message, at least for me, today. He deals with our tongue or more appropriately our speech. How difficult it is to tame the tongue!
“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness” (verse 1). PLEASE let me start off by saying that I DO NOT consider myself a “teacher” here but one who wants to share what God shares with me. That being said, I think HE might see “my role” as worth being judged stricter. I TRY to carefully weigh what I put out for that very reason. I know that I don’t always succeed in that endeavor. Please hold me to a higher standard! Check out what I share! Accept NOTHING I share blindly as pure gospel!
I think maybe James was feeling that same pressure when he was writing this letter. He also personally exemplified his next statement. “For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body” (verse 2 emphasis added). James, the brother of Jesus, was just as fallible as the rest of us for he was part of “we all.” But he wants us to focus on one aspect right now; the tongue.
For such a little muscle it holds a LOT of power! James likens it to a rudder or a bit and bridle of a horse. Let loose it can wreak havoc. Under control it provides direction for the whole vessel. It can tear down or build up. It all depends on how you use or abuse it.
The funny thing about the tongue is that it is NOT an independent member. It can do nothing without the heart or head moving it. Jesus tells us that it is “out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth (or tongue) speaks” (Luke 6:45). What is in our heart is what is going to come out of our mouth. If good things go in, then primarily good things come out. If rotten things go in, then mainly rotten things come out.
I say “primarily” and “mostly” here because we ALL stumble! Even the most gracious person, under the right circumstances, WILL say the wrong thing. Anxiety, exhaustion, frustration, and rushing are my most dangerous times to let my tongue move. These stressors tend to bring biting remarks instead of healing ones. I HAVE to take extra care when speaking during these times or shut my mouth all together to protect those around me. I freely admit that I don’t always succeed in these endeavors. When I fail I have to PRAY that I can correct the situation using that same offending member; my tongue.
“No human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (verse 8). We are never going to get our tongue to be the gentle house pet who always obeys. There is a wild streak in it called our sin nature. It pops through at the most inopportune moments. But we also are not to give up bridling it. This too is part of the works that come about as our faith grows. A fair comparison would be how freely children express whatever comes to mind v. how an adult would. Children have NO filter. If it pops into their mind it comes out their mouth. So it is with a new believer.
But we are not to stay in that immature stage. We are to grow in compassion and wisdom and use our tongue for blessings and not cursings. We are also to grow in wisdom and use our tongue to spread the truth of His word.
Father God, thank You for allowing me to share my thoughts and our time together with others. I pray that what comes out of “my mouth” through my fingers is a blessing to others. I pray it is You speaking instead of me spouting off whatever I happen to land on. I pray I’m not racking up a list of “bad” on the judgement scale.
For my daily use of this stubborn muscle, Lord,
let me use it to bring life and not death. Help me watch my words under ALL circumstances, not just when things are going good. I’m reminded of the proverb, “Be careful the words you speak for some day you may have to eat them.” No, it’s not scripture but it is true. Help me be ever mindful of how my words impact others. Forgive me for all the times I wasn’t caring in my speech.
Help me also Lord to not be so afraid of hurting someone else’s feelings that I don’t speak Your truth. That is something I wrestle with when I come to sharing our time together. Show me Your balance and when to sit down and shut up!