The Book of James focuses on the fact that none of us is perfect… none of us is righteous. And especially when it comes to keeping a tight rein on our tongue. In Matthew 12, the Pharisees were accusing Jesus of being Beelzebub, the prince of demons, after healing a man… but Jesus knew their thoughts and reckless words, and told them at the Judgment Day all would have to give account for every careless word spoken…”For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:37) Nothing gets us into more trouble than idle conversations or blurting out something before we’ve thought it through. And as James observes, if we can’t keep our tongue in check, how can we expect to keep our whole body from stumbling.
Even now it’s sometimes very difficult to discern whether a Word from the Lord we hear is accurate. At face value it may sound good…especially the warm, fuzzy ones that predict peace, prosperity, and a new Cadillac in every garage. But to separate truth from falsehood we have to weigh these words in context with all prior revelations from the Lord. Is it consistent with God’s word? And when put up against the truth already received from the Lord, does it measure up to its standard? When we filter all we hear through these notions first, we’ll be less likely to accept the words of someone who’s overstepping their boundaries and taking smug and arrogant liberties with God’s word.
In the world small things can have great power. In the 3rd Chapter of James, he gives examples of a bit in a horse’s mouth, and a rudder of a ship. And if I asked you what the deadliest animal in the world would be…would you guess a tiger, elephant, or maybe a rhino? The real answer is the tiny mosquito that carries Malaria and kills millions of people yearly. Our tongue is one of the smallest parts of our body…but the power it has is potentially devastating. For just like one spark can start a forest fire…one ugly slip of the tongue can destroy a life.
You’ve probably heard the old saying…If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Oh that we would take that to heart the next time we’re frustrated or angry and our children are close enough to hear us. Careless words confuse and at times frighten children, even when the words are directed at a car that just cut you off or at your spouse. For children feel the angry emotions and then can mistakenly blame themselves for your outburst…even if they had nothing to do with it. ( Interestingly enough, I’ve found this reaction to parental bickering does not go away with age). Romans 14:19 reminds us, ” Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and mutual edification.”