James doesn't know this, but he apparently wrote this particular chapter for me about two thousand years ago. God knew he'd be making me with my big, overly honest in not-always-the-best-of-ways mouth and he tapped James on the shoulder. "She's going to need this. Trust me."
"Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly. Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way." (James 3:1-2)
I can't even begin to tell you the number of times my mouth has gotten me into trouble. And if it isn't my mouth, it's my face. Because whatever I am holding inside of my mouth just pours out onto my face. You can absolutely see the words that I'm thinking written all over my face. It's amusing, therefore, that these words are here in James for me. I think it's even funnier that I spent several years as a teacher to my kids (I suppose I still am since my husband and I are raising them to be amazing, world changing, Jesus loving human beings) and am now writing these devotionals on this blog despite what it says above.
Let's see what else James has to say on this subject:
"We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches.
But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself." (James 3:3-6)
James shares example after example of small things that make big changes. And he's right. Let's look at that first example he shared. The average horse stands as tall as the average man and weighs more than a thousand pounds (these can vary from horse to horse of course, some are more than 2,000 pounds). If you tried to push a horse with your bare hands, it wouldn't have to go anywhere. If you tried to pick it up, you wouldn't get it off the ground. They are heavy and big, right? Insert a bit, a small piece of metal (sometimes other synthetic material), in the mouth of the horse and you can hop on its back and lead it where you want it to go. The bit can be held in the palm of your hand and weighs almost nothing. And yet? It can lead a horse.
Our tongues are just like that. Think about the speeches made in history by people like Rosa Parks, Adolf Hitler, and Martin Luther King Jr. There are so many more but let's think on them here. Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. used their tongues to speak for positive change, to stand up for the rights of themselves and others while Adolf Hitler used his for evil. He set an entire horrible piece of our history into motion through his speeches. Many of the things that each of those people said in their lifetimes are still with us today, written into our history. The tongue is powerful. Once it's used to unleash words into the world, there is no reigning them back in. You can't pull them back, take them back, unsay them. They're out there forever, for better or worse.
"People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring." (James 3:7-12)
Isn't it amazing that the tongue is such a small part of our bodies, one that's hidden inside our mouths, and it causes so much trouble when used incorrectly? James paints a pretty scary picture for us in saying, "People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue." (James 3:7-8a) It all sounds rather hopeless, doesn't it? But it's not. You see, we can't tame our tongues by ourselves. We need Jesus for that, just like we need Jesus for everything. By sticking close to him, talking to him throughout the day, reading his word, and pausing before responding to reflect on Him, we can learn to control our tongue through Jesus' power rather than our own.
So let's move through our day today doing just that- talking constantly to Jesus, our maker, the one who loves us no matter what we do. Allow him to guide you. Let's think before we speak today and see what a difference that could make. Do you struggle with this the way that I do? Is there anyone in your life that you could speak to about this so that you could build an accountability relationship with one another? Start a journal, maybe. Tell your family what you're planning to do so they can help you through it. Who knows? Maybe they'll join you too and you can start something new within the walls of your home. I'm honestly praying for you all today, that Jesus will change each of us one day at a time.