James 3:9-10 “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.”
We were created to glorify and magnify our Father. Everything we do should bring praise and honor to Him. That includes, though not limited to, every single thing we speak, and yet we often use our mouths for purposes completely opposite to that. James is writing to fellow believers in these passages—my brothers—and of all people who should have reason only to speak praiseworthy things, it should be those who have inherited eternal life. Yet sometimes we reduce this instrument of praise to a weapon of destruction. As James said, “These things ought not to be so.” If we were to focus on what has been given to us in spite of the conditions of our hearts, we could do nothing but speak praises to our God. Let us this day look to those things and not the seeming inadequacies of our fellow heirs.
Study/Meditation: On what should you focus so that when your fellow brothers and sisters disappoint you in their actions, you can focus only on the majesty of God? What can you do to aid you in this endeavor?
*Father, You are glorious and mighty and good, and I praise You today. Help me to remember what You have given me. Please forgive the misuse of my tongue. Amen.
James 3:7-8 “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.”
One of the reasons we so enjoy going to the circus is to watch the wild animal tamers with the lions and elephants and other animals. It’s amazing to see how a human being can train these killers to do whatever they command. And yet, as James points out, none of us has the ability to tame our own mouths. No one. It is untamable. But notice that James says “no man” can tame the tongue; our only hope of controlling this little muscle is God and His grace. Just as the horse is led by a bit and the ship by a rudder, we have to realize that both the bit and the rudder are guided by someone greater—the rider or the captain. An inexperienced and incapable rider will be of no use with the bit in a horse’s mouth, but the skilled rider can make the horse do whatever he wills. It is the same with the captain of a ship. Only God is capable of controlling and guiding us for good, and that includes the use of our tongues. In our speech, as in all things, we ultimately and totally need God’s grace.
Study/Meditation: How can we be sure we are relying on God to control our tongues? What can you do to improve your dependence on God’s grace in this area?
*Father, help me to depend on You for the grace I need to control my speech. Forgive me for the thoughtless words I utter, and help me to think and pray before I speak. Amen.
Focal Passage- James 3:1-12
James 3:5b-6 “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.”
It may seem as if James is being a bit dramatic here with this analogy, but in truth he is not. We can calm the raging storms of misery in someone’s life with soothing words and we can cause that same misery with divisive ones. The word James uses in verse 6 for “hell” was the Greek word “gehenna,” which is actually the transliteration of two Hebrew words meaning “Valley of Hinnom.” This was a valley outside of the walls of Jerusalem where ancient worshippers of Molech sacrificed their children and where the Jews now burned refuse and trash. It continually burned there and became an analogy used by Jesus and others to give some comparison to the hell of Satan. The apostle’s meaning is clear: our tongues must be controlled, because out of control, they do the work of the enemy and burn with the ravaging heat of Satan’s hell in both our lives and in the lives of those we meet.
Study/Meditation: Isaiah knew the torrent of the tongue in the face of the Almighty. Read Isaiah 6:6-7. Why did the angel put burning coals on Isaiah’s lips in response to the prophet’s fear?
*Father, forgive me for the unkind and rash words I speak. Help me to be sanctified in my speech and to let only words that are uplifting flow from my mouth. Amen.
James 3:3-5a “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.”
Have you ever tried to control a car when the steering goes out? While moving forward in this state, the only things controlling the direction of that car are the road and any other obstructions that may be in the way. It’s such a small mechanism, and yet when we can’t control it, we lose control of the entire vehicle. So it is with our tongues, and this is precisely why James uses the two analogies he uses in these verses—the bits in the mouths of horses and the rudders in great ships. Like these two small things, our tongues and how we use them will determine the direction our lives take. When we don’t control them, we are no better than the ship whose rudder is controlled by the sea instead of the captain. Our rudder must be controlled by our Captain. Only He can correctly dictate the direction our lives must take, so only He should dictate the words that come out of our mouths.
Study/Meditation: How can you be certain that the rudder of your life is being controlled by your Captain? What steps today can you take to ensure this?
*Father, thank You for giving me Your Word as my guide. Help me to measure all that I say so that my words do nothing but glorify You. Amen.
James 3:2 “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.”
This is quite a statement! While very true that we all stumble and sin in a myriad of ways, James then claims that there is one way to keep from stumbling—taming your tongue. Basically James is telling us that if we can control our speech, saying only those things that are uplifting and glorifying to God, then we would be perfect. In controlling our mouths, we would also be able to control everything else about us. Jesus had said that it isn’t what goes into a man that makes him unclean but what comes out of his mouth, since out of a man’s mouth shows the abundance of his heart. (Matthew 12:34) What we say reveals who we are. We would all do well to take heed to the coming admonitions concerning our speech; if we could but control it, we would, indeed, look more like our Savior.
Study/Meditation: Think of a time recently when the abundance of your heart was revealed in your words. What can you do now to prepare for the next time you have an opportunity to show your heart in this way?
*Father, help me to speak only those things that are glorifying to You and uplifting in Your Kingdom. Forgive me when I fail in this and thank You for loving me and guiding me through my failures. Amen.
Focal Passage- James 3:1-12
James 3:1 “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”
This next section of James’ letter takes a slightly different direction, but only slightly. He has been instructing his readers to have an active faith, one that is marked by good works, but he knew that the human heart would also pervert this truth. You see, being a rabbi, or a teacher, to the men and women of James’ day was of the greatest honor. Consequently, some might take James’ words on active faith to reinforce their conceit and self-serving egos. As a matter of fact, the act of teaching, according to James, should be viewed with a certain amount of fear and a great amount of responsibility since the act of teaching involves directly influencing the faith of others. It should never be seen as self-elevating but instead as another form of service. Basically James is telling us to check our hearts; be sure all that we aspire to do for God’s Kingdom is truly for His Kingdom, and not for what we see as our own.
Study/Meditation: How did Jesus treat the teachers and rabbis of His day? (Matthew 23:5-7) What do His words about these rabbis teach us?
*Father, forgive me when my ego gets in the way of my service. Help me to do all that I do in the service and to the glory of Your Kingdom. Amen.