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. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. – James 3:2-10
Have you ever said something to someone and then wished that you could take it back as if you never said it? I have. Many times in my life I have said something without really thinking about what I was saying. I have hurt people and myself by letting my tongue say what it wants instead of controlling it. But, can I truly control my tongue?
James tells us that we all stumble. If we didn’t stumble, we would be perfect and there has only ever been one perfect man. You see our tongues aren’t really the problem. The problem is with our hearts. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” Jeremiah said, “the heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?”(17:9) I propose that the tongue is just a tool of the heart. If we do not “keep our heart with all vigilance,” our tongue will reveal the attitudes of our heart. As Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)
Our heart is where we struggle with our fleshly nature, or at least we should. The Apostle Paul told us to put the flesh to death, but I am afraid that many of us have learned to live with our sin nature. We are comfortable with it and believe that we have it under control. This is why we can bless and curse in the same breath, and this ought not to be. As believers in Christ we should “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32) We should, “…respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.” (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13) Many times, unfortunately, we fall way short of Paul’s standard on how we should treat each other. Many times we think we are complementing when in fact we are cursing. The heart is so deceitful.
So how do we tame the heart and the tongue. We can’t. “Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.” (Proverbs 28:26) Our only hope is Jesus Christ.
“But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:8-13)
It is only our faith in Jesus Christ that can tame the tongue. We must believe in our heart that God raised Jesus from the grave, and proclaim with our tongue that Jesus is Lord. This in not a one time and done. This is a daily acknowledgement that Jesus is Lord and then living it out.
Father, you are a God of solutions. You do not leave us alone to deal with our sin, but you provide a way to overcome our sinful natures. You provided your Son to defeat sin and then you gave us the Holy Spirit to help us live. Help me Father to tame my tongue and heart by your power and not on my own ability, because without you I can do nothing. Help me to bless and not curse those around me. May your grace be apparent in my life. – Amen