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. (James 3:1-12)
Small But Ferocious
The human body is a marvel of God’s creation. Every part of the fleshly temple is an integral concert of beauty and function. James uses the body to show the danger that lurks within the smallest of bodily design. The tongue (compared to the rest of the body) is so small but from this lesser sized part comes so many problems. Like the rudder in a large ship or the bit in a horse’s mouth the tongue rules the character of a man. While so many organs of the body are essential for life the tongue is the one thing that defines the kind of person we are. Without the heart or brain man cannot live but the tongue is what gets us into more trouble than anything. With it we will bless God and then curse men. Jesus reminds us we will be judged by our words.
Words are powerful. They can be used to help, admonish, teach and encourage. This same instrument can start wars, ruin friendships, spew forth hatred and bring misery. Someone suggested the reason God created two ears and one mouth was to teach us to listen more than we speak. There is truth in knowing the difference. God created the little tongue for a greater purpose. Untapped within the reservoir of our mind is the ability to use the tongue as an instrument of goodness. The challenge is realizing the opportunities to use the tongue as a means of blessing.
A trip to doctor usually involves an examination. One of the first things the doctor may say is to open the mouth so he can see the tongue. We should take the time to examine our speech each day to see what kind of people we are. Look into the heart and see what the tongue is saying. Jesus taught His disciples that what comes from the mouth is what is found in the heart. A good heart will bring forth good things but an evil heart will bring forth evil. James illustrates our lives by a spring that brings forth either fresh water or bitter. The heart that is filled with kindness will bring forth kind words. Putting God in the heart will bring Him forth in our speech.
The tongue is small but it is unruly. We should work diligently to control what we say and how we say what we say. Our motive should always seek to say those things that glorify God. A thoughtful approach to our speech will often save us the misery of trying to repair the damage inflicted by an unguarded tongue. In those times of the uncharacteristic bursts of talking before thinking – repent. The power of the tongue is saying you are sorry and asking forgiveness. A sincere heart of pleading to forgive the untamed remark will show the righteous character of a godly tongue. There is so much good to be done with the small member. Let us use each day to glorify God with our speech.
The Bible has a lot to say about our mouths, our lips, our tongues, for our speech betrays us. What is down in the well will come up in the bucket. (Vance Havner, 1901-1986)