James 3:3-6 KJV
3 Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body.
4 Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth.
5 Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!
6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.
James uses is a couple of very interesting analogies to talk about taming our tongue. I love the way he weaves these in because he makes it very practical to think about what we need to do in order to bring our tongue under control. I must admit I don’t do very good in that area and I work at it all the time.
The first image to uses is that of a horse. I have ridden a horse only once in my life. It almost bucked me off and then they had me going so fast that for four days I was hurting. I believe that they put a faulty bit in the horse’s mouth to begin with just to have it get riled up. The bit is attached to the reins, which give the horse direction about where you want to go. Without the reins you would have to be a master horseman to have that horse be obedient. and the reins are useless without the bit. From that little bit in their mouth the whole horse can be tamed and told what to do.
The second picture is of a boat. Now back in those days they had pretty small boats. Today we have huge ocean liners that they couldn’t even comprehend in those days. But the truth still remains that the boat is controlled by the helm which is a very small part of the boat that turns the boat one direction or the other. Without the helm you would not be able to turn the boat. You would be at the mercy of the winds and the waves.
The way he relates this to the tongue is the fact that both of these are very small parts of the overall mechanism that is used to control the horse or the boat. But without these pieces there is no control. If there is no control of the boat and the horse, you are bound for calamity of some sort. And if we do not control our tongue it will defile our whole body. Our testimony will be of no effect if our tongue goes off at the slightest thing. We have a responsibility to take the helm of our lives and control that tongue. It can hurt others more than anything else can!
The tongue is loudest when pride is the deepest. The tongue boasts quite often about the accomplishments we make. The tongue gossips. The tongue complains. The tongue argues. The tongue deceives. The tongue back bites. The tongue puts people down. All of these things are definitely a manifestation of the heart but they are displayed by the tongue. Remember what Jesus sad about what defiles a man? He said it’s not what goes into the man, but what comes out that defiles him (Matt 15:11). These words do not only defile the man that produces them but can kindle a fire that spreads faster and farther than we can imagine.
Proverbs has many verses about the tongue that show how troublesome it can be. Proverbs 15:4, 15:28, 17:9, 18:21, and 21:23. There are other verses throughout the bible that take about the benefits and the evils of the tongue. We would do well to recognize that our tongues can be so hurtful. I have met so many people who are suffering in their adulthood because of words said to them in their developing years. Parents need to be so cautious what they say to their children. The words they hear may scar them for life!
When we are Christians none of these negative things should be evident in our lives. If they are, it ruins our testimony and our witness. Have you ever seen a person who says they’re a Christian and goes around trying to win people to Christ, and then the next time you see them they’re complaining about this, that or the other thing and they’re arguing with people about their beliefs instead of leading them with love? How effective is this person’s witness? I know it was never effective with me before I receive Christ. If his actions did not follow his words, it was a big turn off!
We must make sure that are tongue is controlled. The world is watching every word we say. The words of my mouth should come out as edification to those that hear it (Eph 4:29). We are supposed to build one another up not put one another down. We are supposed to think and speak based on Philippians 4:8. If we live that kind of life, the right words will come out and we will be headed in the right direction. Let’s so order our speech that is pleasing to God at every turn.