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Controlling our tongues (James 3:1-10)

3 Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2 We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.

3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.

James’s words here on taming the tongue come after he exhorts us to express our faith through good deeds in chapter two, and before he moves onto the wisdom of God versus the wisdom of the world and encouraging our submission to God in chapter four.

This word in chapter 3, verse 1 about teachers being judged more strictly reminds me of Jesus words in Matthew 18:6 about avoiding causing children & young Christians to stumble. Jesus loves His disciples and takes their spiritual development very seriously. He still entrusts church teachers as well as pastors and other types of leaders to build up young believers, and to teach with their own good example. He expects teachers to love and care for their congregations. Jesus does not want teachers to be hypocrites, or corrupt. There are however, false teachers at work who exploit, manipulate steal and destroy. These shall face Jesus’ stern judgment unless they repent.

In verse 2 James discusses that we have all been guilty of speaking hurtful, foolish words. We should strive to exercise greater control over what comes out of our mouths.

He reminds us in verses 3 to 8 our words are powerful for good or evil.

Sometimes the problem of hurting people with our words is because we underestimate their power. On the positive side when we encourage someone, we can be surprised by their positive reaction. It is too easy to underestimate the power of the spoken word. We should harness the power of the tongue carefully.

Verse 9 challenges all Christians:

9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.

Wow, what a challenge. Sometimes Scripture can just convict us of our hypocrisy. In 1 John 4:20 John tells us we are liars if we claim to love God but do not love our brothers and sisters. We need to learn to express the love of Christ in our words as well as our actions.

Suggested prayer: Father God we pray for the strength and power to live a Spirit-filled life. May the words of our mouths and the meditation of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight. May we do good to those around us and especially to those who belong to the family of believers. May we express our love for You as we love those You have placed around us. In Jesus Name. Amen.


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