By what WE do, as well? (part 10)
So the extraordinary test that James put to his readers was to keep such a tight rein on what came out of their mouths (James 1:26) that they’d be absolutely faultless in what they said. Never a wrong word, ever (3:2) – an especially tough call for his readers, who’d been through some hard trials and they’d been mouthing off at God and blaming him (1:13).
And all due to a rather tiny part of their human anatomy: the tongue. James compares it to the tiny bit placed in a horse’s mouth that gives power to the rider to control the movements of such a large, strong animal. Ships too because, for all their size and the momentum they have with a strong wind behind them, they too can be controlled by a small rudder in the hands of a helmsman. “Likewise,” James writes in James 3:5-6, “the human tongue is physically small, but what tremendous effects it can boast of! A whole forest can be set ablaze by a tiny spark of fire, and the tongue is just as dangerous with its vast potential for spreading evil. It can poison the whole body, and make one’s entire life a blazing hell.”
And how sad it is, verses 7-8, that “for all our skill at taming animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea, we’ve never been able to tame our own tongue. It remains a wild and restless evil, full of deadly poison.”
Tough words for those who “consider themselves religious” (James 1:26). But tougher still in verses 9-12, when faced with the hypocrisy of “using our tongue to bless our Father, but also using it to curse and judge those he created in his likeness.” Amazing how “Blessing and curses come from the same mouth – how can such a thing happen? Have you ever known a spring pour out sweet and bitter water simultaneously? Have you ever seen a fig-tree with a crop of olives, or seen figs growing on a vine, or a spring pour out fresh and salt water at the same time?”
So, the tongue is not just brutal it’s also clever, plotting, and subtly deceptive. It is hypocritical and duplicitous, eagerly willing to deceive in order to achieve its own advantage. So how difficult must it be for us humans to control such a monster? And yet that’s what we’re called on to do (verse 2).
It’s a massive test, so what equally massive purpose has God got in mind for us passing it?…(more on this tomorrow)