James 3:2-12(NKJV) 2For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. 3Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. 4Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. 5Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! 6And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. 7For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. 8But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. 9With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. 10Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. 11Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? 12Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.
This week we have been studying the teaching of Jesus on words in Matthew 12. I want to finish the week with another New Testament reference to the power of words found in James letter to the church. In verse 1, James tells us that not many should desire to be teachers because teachers bear a greater accountability than others do. Then he makes the statement that if we can keep from stumbling with words, we will not stumble at all. According to James, teachers who carry the greatest degree of accountability will be successful if they simply speak as they should. That is an astounding statement.
Once again, we see that words hold a place in our success that we have a difficult time accepting. In James, we see that words set the direction of our lives. James uses two illustrations that make this very clear. I used to do quite a lot of horseback riding in my youth. I have always been impressed with the fact that a small piece of metal could control such a large animal as a horse. Just a small amount of pressure on the corner of its mouth will cause a horse to go exactly where you want it to go. Even when the horse wants to go another direction, the bit will control him.
On the other hand, there is a term to describe a situation when the horse is not under the control of the rider. That term is to “take the bit in the teeth. This means that the horse has gripped the bit with his teeth so that the rider cannot put any pressure on the horse’s mouth so that he cannot turn him. When the horse “takes the bit”, he goes wherever he wants to go and the rider cannot do much about it.
The second illustration is similar in nature. A US Navy aircraft carrier is a city floating on the sea. The rudder is also huge and if you look at it alone, it is very impressive. However when you compare it to the size of the whole ship, it is very small. Yet this relatively small piece of metal controls the direction of the whole ship and by extension the projection of American power.
James tells us that the tongue has the same affect on our life’s direction. When we are in control of our words, we go where we want to go. When we allow our words to be uncontrolled, our lives are not controlled and will go in whatever direction our words take them. In this case, our words will be controlled by our emotions and not by our faith.
If you look at your current condition in life, and then objectively look at the pattern of your speech, you will see a correlation. That does not mean that words are the only factor in life. It does mean they are a more important factor than we usually think. More importantly, we can become proactive in using our words to set our course in life. Where do you desire your life to be in the future. Make a decision to set that course with your words.
As we read on in this section of scripture, we find that James emphasizing the uncontrollable nature of the tongue. He points out that the tongue can kindle a large fire even though it is a small organ. The world is well aware of the potential damage words can do. The most destructive war in human history was set into motion by the words of a very evil man. Adolf Hitler took a nation of good people and caused them to both allow and do things that most of us cannot imagine. His most powerful tool was words.
We all know how difficult it is to control our words. We say things we do not want to say. We do not say things we know we should. In both cases, we cause ourselves grief that could be avoided if we simply controlled our tongue. However, James tells us that no one can control the tongue. He says that man’s wisdom has controlled all kinds of animals, but no man can control the tongue.
Is James saying that it is simply impossible to control the tongue so we should not bother to try? That is not the case at all. He is saying that we cannot control the tongue with our flesh. However, we have more than the flesh available to us. As Christians, we have the Holy Spirit and the Word of God to help us.
How can the Holy Spirit help us control our tongue? There are two ways. First, we need to give the Holy Spirit more control in our life as a whole. When the Holy Spirit is in control of our actions, we will be less likely to allow our tongue to speak contrary to that control. There is another way the Holy Spirit can help us control our words. If we are filled with the Spirit, we have the ability to pray in the Spirit and I believe this involves praying in other tongues.
1 Corinthians 14:14(NKJV) 14For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful.
When we pray in tongues, we yield our tongues to the absolute control of the Holy Spirit. We do not understand the words we speak so we cannot control them. I believe the more we do this the more we train our tongues to speak in line with the will of the Holy Spirit when we do choose our words. We should never discount the power of praying in the Holy Spirit.
The other thing we can use to help control our tongue is the written Word of God. When we pray in the Spirit, we yield control of our tongue to the Holy Spirit. When we choose to speak the written Word of God, we take control of our tongue and make them say what God says. We take hold of the “bit” and choose with our mind what direction our words will take. When we are speaking the words written in the Bible, we know that they are words that perfectly reflect the will of God. We also know that they will take us to a place of blessing and not a place where the curse awaits us.
You may not fully understand the principles involved in how words affect your life. I am sure that the flesh will rebel against the idea that you need to use your words according the direction of the Holy Spirit and the written Word of God. However, the bible is clear. If we control our words, we control our actions and release faith instead of doubt and fear. As we control our actions, we control the outcome of our circumstances.
Do not let your words control you. Do not let your emotions control your words. Take hold of the bit. Get your hands on the wheel that controls the rudder. You can set the course of life according to the Word and will of God. This is a powerful truth and we can use it to our advantage. Let us end the week by reading the verse with which we began this study.
Proverbs 18:21(NKJV) 21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.