Learning to Speak Life
“3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.” James 3:3-12 NIV
Horse bits, boat rudders, small sparks, and tongues of men, James says, have something very important in common. All are small and appear insignificant, but have great power and influence – for good or bad. While small and appearing insignificant, a bit in the mouth of a horse turns the whole animal. Likewise, a rudder is small and is used by the pilot of the ship to maneuver the entire vessel. If bits, rudders, or sparks are not intentionally controlled, entire horses, ships, and fires will be out of control and have the potential to do great damage.
While our tongues are small and don’t appear to be much, it can speak forth life to others or death. It can bring direction or destruction. It can lift someone and encourage their spirits, or it can condemn, criticize, and corrode the hearts of others. With our words, we can release praises to God in Heaven and we can let the fires of hell ignite gossip, swearing, put downs, and hurtful sarcasm (this, by the way, is my greatest challenge in managing my tongue).
James, we remember from previous devotions, is not a preacher who is satisfied preaching a nice message that people are happy with. He is a preacher who calls people out and challenges them to take action. James doesn’t tolerate people in the church who use their words to profess a faith in God, then in the next breath slander others or makes boasts in themselves. The tongue, James reminds, can “corrupt the whole body,” and set “the whole course of one’s life on fire.” Be careful how you speak. Be thoughtful in the words you use. Like the bit, the rudder, and the spark, your tongue can be a tool that brings life, or it can be used to bring about great discouragement and hurt.
In regards to dealing with my own tongue, I am thankful to the Holy Spirit that I am not where I once was, but James helps me to realize how far I am from where He wants me to be. James reminds me today that I have been too loose with my own tongue and language. I haven’t been filtering my words and thoughts as I ought to. I justify my complaints rather than recognizing all that I ought to be grateful for. If I want to give worship to God that is meaningful, I must not permit the enemy to use my tongue. I cannot justify my complaints because others around me complain. Instead, I need to lift praises to God regardless of what others say around me.
Lord help me to speak according to Your grace, rather than my problems. Cleanse my heart and my tongue. It is such a small part of me that has hurt far too many people – including my family. Please forgive the MANY times I have not spoken in ways that are not fitting a child of God. I want to speak as You speak.
Lord I desire to speak life and encouragement to others rather than sarcasm and complaints. May my lips ALWAYS speak of praises to You, and not about the problems of mine. Cleanse my heart to recognize You and speak of You more. Open my eyes to see You working in and around me, rather than seeing and complaining about Your absence. In the strong name of Jesus Christ I pray, amen.