James 1:26-27 KJV
26 If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.
27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
When you ride horse, you have to have a bridle. The bridle is what holds on the reins and allows you to have some control over the horse. There are many places in the Bible that talk about the reins. Psalm 139:13 is my favorite. David writes “Thou hast possessed my reins” in speaking of God. Has God possessed the reins of your life?
I am not a horse rider. I rode once and the horse almost dumped me as it reared up. Then the people I was with got going to fast and I had to keep up. I was sore for 4 days after that adventure and just never felt like riding again. I have however, studied a little on the use of the reins, and realize that this is a very profound statement David makes. I must admit that most bible scholars attribute the reins to God working on our inward parts. I see it a little different.
The reins are used to direct the horse in the way the rider wants to go. A pull or slack in one direction or the other is a signal for the horse to turn. The severity of the tug lets the horse know how quickly to turn. It takes a long time for a rider to train a horse to obey their instruction with the reins. As the rider and the horse learn each other, the commands with the reins become commonplace, so that the horse always knows what the rider wants. Tug, turn, tug turn, pull, slow down…on and on the instruction goes. A good horse does not move any direction that reins do not turn.
So it should be with us and God. God desires to lead us in every area of life. He desires to “possess our reins” and have us turn when He wants us to turn, go when He wants us to go, and stop when He wants us to stop. As we get to know His instruction better, we understand the signals He gives us, just as the horse does with the rider. We become more obedient and submissive, which allows God to take us further on the plan He has for our lives.
The bridle is what the reins attach to. Without the bridle, there is no way God can take the reins. This is the picture James is painting here. He is talking about a person who just burst things out without thinking about it. The term that I often hear is that this person just has no “filter” through which they pass their words before they blurt them out. Whatever is on their mind, it just comes out, good or bad. This is not a good way to be.
We will be talking about the tongue in much more detail when we get to James 3. It is interesting to me that this admonition comes here and not there. James is tying our ability too control our tongue with our ability to effectively minister to others, with our “religion”. He says our religion is useless if we are always waging our tongue with words that are not controlled by God. Why does He say this?
I believe it is because someone who truly ministers to others out of their heart does not brag or boast about it. They do not go about doing good and then running of at the mouth about the inability of the people they are serving. They do not put anyone else down because of who they are, nor because they are not helping out. They go about their minsitry quietly, allowing God to work and speak through them and not worrying about getting attention or praise for what they have done.
They minister to those in true need among them. The first part is recognized by us as ministry – visiting the fatherless and the widow in their affliction. I need more of a heart to do these this! The second part of this verse we often overlook as denoting pure religion – keeping ourselves unspotted from the world. That takes effort on a whole different scale. This takes allowing God to take the reins!