I struggle with my words. Everyone does sometimes. Taming the tongue is not an easy task. Have you seen all those cute mugs and t-shirts that say “I love Jesus but I cuss (or drink) a little”? Do you get desensitized like me? It’s in movies, it’s in normal conversation. My FIL and husband have the habit that would be so hard to break because it’s just a normal part of their vocabulary. Those words seem heavier and get through to my teenagers better. I.e. shock factor.
But cursing isn’t the only thing the Bible refers to when it says to watch your tongue and let no impure words come out. “Taming the tongue” can mean controlling your gossip, degrading others, bragging/boasting, exaggeration, manipulating, lying, complaining, false teaching, or flattering.
[click_to_tweet tweet=”What you say and what you DON’T say are BOTH important.” quote=”What you say and what you DON’T say are BOTH important.”]
So today we are looking at what James has to say about taming that nasty tongue in Chapter 3 of his self titled book in the Bible. I use the Good Morning Girls highlighting method along with some of my added practices. Feel free to head over this way to completely check that out.
It’s always important to know context. James is writing this letter to Jewish believers that are scattered throughout the area and living among Gentiles, teaching others about following Jesus. If you want to start at the beginning of James and study in order, start here with James 1 and then James 2. He is talking about the general characteristics of a Christian and exposing some false teachings that were spreading through the early church.
Taming the Tongue
1Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2For 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. 3If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 4Look 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. 5So 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! 6And 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. 7For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by making, 8but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. 11Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.
Everyone’s highlights can vary a little because most verses could fit into multiple categories. Here’s my breakdown:
- Verse 1= instruction
- Verse 2= sin & teaching
- Verse 3= teaching
- Verse 4= teaching
- Verse 5= teaching & death
- Verse 6= evil
- Verse 7= teaching
- Verse 8= teaching & evil
- Verse 9= teaching
- Verse 10= hypocrisy & instruction
- Verse 11= teaching
- Verse 12= teaching
First off, look at these portions – “we all stumble” and “no human being can tame the tongue”. No one is perfect. Don’t condemn yourself for slip ups. The enemy uses the tongue to divide people and pit them against each other. Just remember, you are not fighting the tongue on your own! The Holy Spirit will remind you of God’s love and you won’t speak hateful words.
James uses the example of a tiny spark burning down an entire forest. Think of the devastation that the 2018 wildfires brought California and Washington. Another example – horses have a small bit in their mouth and we use it to guide their whole bodies. A ship is guided by a small rudder through the open seas. So this small part of our body can alter the course of our marriages, families, careers, and reputations (others reputations too)! That’s kinda scary!
Verse 9 really hits my heart hard. I don’t want to do that! I pray that I can see people through the eyes of God and tame my tongue before I insult the creation and the creator. I teach this to my kids. I need to practice what I preach.
T.H.I.N.K. before you speak and ask yourself these questions. “Is what I’m about to say…
T – true? Is it even true?
H – helpful? Will my words be helpful?
I – inspiring? Inspiring words are always welcome.
N – necessary? Is it really necessary to say this?
K – kind? Are my words kind?
We want the people around us to notice that there’s something different about us, right? We want them to see Jesus! A major way people will notice the difference is by the words that come from our hearts out our mouths.
We all need help taming the tongue. I need help! I’ll be honest. I still really struggle with seeing the severity of dropping an f-bomb every now and then. Did you know it’s scientifically proven that cursing can physically lower stress? But I know God can both defy science and lower my stress so there’s my answer. 😉
But another key takeaway here is that taming the tongue is not just about curse words. I get annoyed and complain. I get bored and want to talk which can end up turning into gossip. I consider one coworker a friend and end up exaggerating situations with my Mr. I get frustrated with something minuscule and one of those words do come out.
Thankfully I know I have the strength to control my tongue. Christ has sent the Holy Spirit to guide me and convict me when my tongue gets out of control. I know Christ has paid the price for my sins and that God forgives me when I repent of my sinful words. Don’t be discouraged. Be encouraged! You won’t be perfect (James 3:2). Nobody was but Christ himself. But you DO have the Holy Spirit to help you and you CAN T.H.I.N.K. to help tame the tongue and grow in works that authenticate your faith.
Love you friend!
You know what helps when I need to remind myself what God has to say? These printable cards that I can carry around with me wherever, in traffic, in the office, wherever I live my day to day life and need that bit of bible to help me through normal life situations. I thought I’d share them with you! Enjoy!!
- Wisdom From Above; An Excerpt from James 3
- James 5; Patience & Endurance When You’re Suffering & the Power of Prayer
- James 4; A Warning Against Worldliness & Boasting from the brother of Jesus. A Lesson in Examining Your Heart.
- Bible Teaching From James 1; Building Endurance, Wisdom, and Following the Word
- A Quick Bible Study Through James 2; Teaching About Favoritism & An Active Faith