Sunday 22 November
James chapter 3
Taming the tongue
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. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
Two Kinds of Wisdom13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbour bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.
Message: - Guard our head and our hearts
The first thing our reading makes clear to us is that those of us in teaching roles are to be held to a higher standard and rightly so. After all, we speak, you listen and absorb what is said. If we are wrong then how easily our tongue can get us into difficulty because we lead you astray. One wrong word can cause either misunderstanding or a rift in relationships that can be difficult if not impossible to put right again. None of us can unsay what we have said! It is right therefore that we are held to the higher standard.
Then of course, many of you can be asked an opinion which also impacts of the perception of others. Are you therefore not to be held to that high standard too, as are parents and grandparents.? Therefore, let us all be mindful of what we say!
We are then warned in verse 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.”
I hope you see the challenge here. I remember when I first heard someone say we should never tell a person they are bad! The advice was to say they are doing or have done a bad thing and contrast that with the fact good people don’t do that. Whilst that may be appropriate for younger people, older people may find the advice patronising, which isn’t good either. It is for that reason that we should be careful to guard what comes out of our mouths.
When I worked for BT, Joyce, my wife, would often join me for lunch in the canteen, or pick me up from work. A man I worked with, never said a word when Joyce was around, not even “hello” passed his lips. One day she asked me if he could speak. He was one of the most foul-mouthed people I have ever known, and that is saying something. He had total control over his tongue as long as he didn’t speak but for fear of allowing bad language to slip out, he said nothing at all.
We don’t need to go that far but we do need to be careful of what we do say. Lest we end up separated from God because of the language we use about other people.
Then in closing, let us look at the last section in our reading: - 17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.
Let us learn to measure what we say and do by this standard. Let us ask ourselves if it will diffuse tension or anger, is it considerate, grace filled and reflecting back to last week, impartial and sincere!
By the help of the Holy Spirit in us may we be seen as peace-loving, considerate, non-confrontational, full of mercy and showing the good fruit of the Spirit. Let us be impartial and sincere such so that we may reap a harvest of righteousness. To the glory of God.