Taming that Tongue
By Jonathan Santiago
If you've ever said anything you regret keep reading.
Here's what James (via the Holy Spirit) says about the tongue:
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! James 3:3-4 NKJV
Having control over something as mighty as a ship or horse is a good thing. And having control over something as potent as our tongue allows us to be highly effective Disciples of Christ. It allows us to speak life into others, edify, comfort, exhort, all while binding those things that are not of God. That's the good news. The bad news is that James goes on to say that no one can tame the tongue!
If no human can tame his or her tongue, what hope is there? The hope, as you probably guessed, is in Jesus Christ. When we are spiritually reborn, we are born with the ability to call on the power of the Holy Spirit to give us wisdom and temperance.
OK, so if you're like me you've never said anything you've regretted once you were a born again believer, correct? Ha, of course not. As I was reading this passage I was seeking how I can more effectually bridle my tongue and use if for edification. Lo and behold, James offers the solution a few verses down in the chapter.
James first lets us know what is clearly not of God:
But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but [is] earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking [exist], confusion and every evil thing [are] there. James 3:14-16 NKJV
Envy and self-seeking are mentioned twice.Whether praying for someone or sharing a scripture, if there is any envy or self-seeking in what we are saying, it is not of God. We must not lie against this truth. I basically imagine God saying, "Who are you kidding? You know I wouldn't have you say something that is envious or self-seeking in my name."
We cannot judge what we speak merely by the words themselves, but by the spiritual wisdom from which the words are spoken. James uses some pretty powerful terms to describe the wisdom that is self-seeking – demonic and evil are just two of them.
When we are about to speak we would do well to stop and ask:
1. Is what I'm about to say based on envy?
2. Am I self-seeking right now?
If we answer yes to any of these we should wait to speak. James gave us the qualities to judge bad wisdom by, but he also gave us the qualities to know good wisdom by! Let's continue on in the chapter.
But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James 3:17-18 NKJV
Before we speak, we should also ask ourselves the following - Is what I'm about to say:
1. Pure (or is there confusion or uncertainty)?
4. Willing to yield (be compliant or obeying)?
6. Free from partiality and hypocrisy?
These are two checklists God gives us. The wisdom behind list one can cause a destructive fire that wreaks havoc. The wisdom behind list two will edify and yield righteous fruit.
Copyright © 2013, Jonathan Santiago, used by permission.
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Jonathan Santiago works with CBN and the Superbook team designing interactive user experiences. With a M.A. in Communications from Regent University, he enjoys writing and sharing from the Bible in his spare time. For more, visit www.quickenme.com. Send your comments to Jonathan.
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