Scripture: James 3:1-18
Observation: James warns us about how unpredictable and how uncontrollable our tongue is. He encourages us to pursue wisdom and reminds us that godly wisdom is never jealous or selfish. Godly wisdom is pure, peaceful, gentle, and others-focused.
Application: Have you ever said something and instantly wished that you could press pause, rewind, take all those words back, and start again? This happens to me on a daily basis (and if I’m honest, more like an hourly basis).
One moment, I’m sitting there having a perfect pleasant and normal conversation, and the next minute, it’s like someone else has taken over my mouth. I’m saying something incredibly dumb, insensitive, or inappropriate and I know I shouldn’t be, but for some reason I’m still talking and simultaneously thinking: “What am I saying? Stop talking. ABBY, STOP. YOU ARE SO AWKWARD. SERIOUSLY. MAKE IT STOP.” Of course, this tends to happen to me most when I’m up on stage in front of people with a microphone in my hand. Like the time I said “sex” instead of “cents” and then tried to cover it up with a lame joke and it was awful and horrible but I JUST KEPT GOING. I’m hopeless.
James’ words, although pretty straightforward and convicting, actually help me understand why I feel so hopeless in this area: it’s because the tongue can’t be tamed.
“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.” (verses 7-8)
Preach it, James! I feel ya here. You’re right – I can’t control myself! My tongue often feels restless and evil and poisonous, like it has a mind of its own. So, it is what it is, right? Nothing I can do if I can’t control it. Here’s what else he says about our tongue that can’t be tamed:
“But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And 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.” (verses 5-6)
Okay, well, that’s kind of terrifying. I know my tongue is restless and evil, but now you’re also saying it’s a flame of fire that can corrupt my whole body? And you told me I can’t tame it? Is this whole thing really that hopeless?
The truth is: We can’t tame our tongue…on our on. When we try to tame our tongue through our own strength or our own willpower, we’re hopeless. We end up saying something awkward, interrupting someone (again), or spewing out words laced with anger, with jealousy, with bitterness.
We can’t contain the evilness inside of us without the power of the Lord in us.
“For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.” (verse 15-16)
Ouch, right? However, when we rely on wisdom from the Lord, he fills us with the power, strength, and self-control to tame our tongue.
“But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.” (verse 17)
Let’s rely on wisdom from above, asking the Holy Spirit to fill our lives, our hearts, and our mouths. Let’s make Psalm 141 our prayer:
“Take control of what I say, O Lord, and guard my lips.” (Psalm 141:3)
When God takes control of what we say, only then do we have the power to tame our tongue, to speak words of life, of love, of hope, and of peace.
Prayer: God, first, I ask for forgiveness for all the words I speak that are selfish, jealous, and evil. I pray your Holy Spirit will fill me and take control of what I say. Allow my words to be full of love and life. I pray for your wisdom to work through me. Amen.
- What situations often trigger unhealthy, evil words in you?
- Why do you find it so difficult to tame your tongue?
- How have you invited God into your life to help you tame your tongue?James speaks sharply about how destructive jealousy and selfishness can be. How do you identify and weed out jealousy and selfishness in your life?
- Who do you know who often speaks life into others?