[Note: The following post was first published on 4th March 2018 under the heading James (3)].
Read: James 3:1-18
Consider: In today’s reading James confronts his readers with a truth that is as relevant today as it was then. This is that in the Christian life the hardest thing to control is the tongue. James’ concern is that the profession of the Christian should be matched by the life they lead (in other words, they should walk the talk). In this section of his letter he moves from what Christians do, to what they say. James uses the analogy of a horse or a ship that must be controlled by a bridle and a rudder respectively. It isn’t just the need to control that he is alluding to, but also the smallness of the thing that controls the whole horse or ship. Similarly the tongue is very small in comparison to the whole body, yet if unbridled can have a devastating effect on those around us.
If the tongue cannot be tamed, then what is the answer? If there is nothing we can do, should we just give up? When James says ‘… this should not be’ (v10) he is appealing to his readers’ consciences that the tongue is not an instrument which should be used for blessing and cursing. The answer to this conundrum is contained in the second half of the chapter.
Having set out the problem all of us face when he says ‘… no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison’, James then describes two aspects of wisdom in verses 13-18. Firstly, there is earthly wisdom – what you can learn from your sinful nature, everything around you, from books and people. Secondly, there is heavenly wisdom – what you can only learn from God. The answer to taming the tongue is not to be found inside us, or in self-help books, or friends and family, but only as we take the problem to God and allow him to refine us, so that the wisdom that is lived out in our lives is heavenly. James sums this up when he says: But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness (James 3:17-18)
Our goal must be to be peacemakers. If we keep this in mind it is less likely that we will use our tongues inappropriately.
Pray: Father, we acknowledge that the tongue can often be used inappropriately and that we all stumble in this area of life. We ask that you would refine us so that we are led by you to be peacemakers. When we find ourselves in conflict situations may our concern not be about winning, but about presenting heavenly wisdom. Amen