The Tongue

James 3:1-12

My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.

“He that hath an ear, let him hear” is repeated several times in the Bible, especially in chapters two and three of Revelations.  Perhaps since we have two ears and only one tongue, we would be better off if we listened more than we speak.  When tempted to speak, let us remember that our ears cannot cause anger, disagreement and chaos.  A good rule to possibly follow when tempted to speak before thinking is “Shut up.”

Ephesians 4:29 – Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

James speaks about stumbling in word – we are all guilty of that.  If we do not stumble in our words, James says we would be perfect and able to bridle the whole body.  He uses the example of how we put bridles in horses’ mouth so that we can control them and how a small rudder can be used by the pilot to direct a large boat.  This is clearly an area where many of us do not succeed – controlling our tongue.  Perhaps we could use a roll of duct tape.  Walmart sells it for about $3.50 a roll.  Many of us may need the extra wide and super strength version.

Luke 6:43-45 – For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

How many times have you heard someone say something and then follow it up with “I didn’t mean to say that”?  According to the Bible, you did.

A song our children used to sing says “It only takes a spark to get a fire going.”  The tongue is unruly, evil and full of deadly poison according to James.  How often do we praise and worship God and then turn around gossip, lie, curse, call others names. 

While no one tames the tongue on their own, thanks be to God who gives us the Holy Spirit who can empower us to get victory over our words. 

If the church will work at cleaning up our tongue – what a difference it could make in our world. 

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