ESOCS Devotional 31 March 2023
MEMORY VERSE: “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.” James 3:7-8 NIV
TEXT: JAMES 3:1-8
Not many [of you] should become teachers ([a]self-constituted censors and reprovers of others), my brethren, for you know that we [teachers] will be judged by a higher standard and with greater severity [than other people; thus we assume the greater accountability and the more condemnation].
2 For we all often stumble and fall and offend in many things. And if anyone does not offend in speech [never says the wrong things], he is a fully developed character and a perfect man, able to control his whole body and to curb his entire nature.
3 If we set bits in the horses’ mouths to make them obey us, we can turn their whole bodies about.
4 Likewise, look at the ships: though they are so great and are driven by rough winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the impulse of the helmsman determines.
5 Even so the tongue is a little member, and it can boast of great things. See how much wood or how great a forest a tiny spark can set ablaze!
6 And the tongue is a fire. [The tongue is a] world of wickedness set among our members, contaminating and depraving the whole body and setting on fire the wheel of birth (the cycle of man’s nature), being itself ignited by hell (Gehenna).
7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea animal, can be tamed and has been tamed by human genius (nature).
Time and again the Scriptures address the tongue. James devotes an entire chapter to controlling the tongue. When we consider the words of Jesus in Matthew 12:34 we see why the tongue is given such extensive treatment. How we handle the tongue is a great indicator of our hearts before God.
Verse 2 also reveals James’s attitude about the tongue. “Anyone who does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle his own body.” The person who can control the tongue is a complete, mature Christian. His point is that controlling the tongue is difficult. The person who can control the tongue is clearly a person who has developed spiritual control over it. James shows us that one of the principles marks of maturity is self-discipline. Self-discipline in regards to one’s speech is rare. It is commanded, but James observes how rarely such control is exercised.
James moves to his second point about why we need to control the tongue. The second reason is that the tongue, while small, has a very destructive power. The tongue is a fire, with the power set fire to all our relationships. Verse 6 is a fairly complicated sentence in the Greek. I think the NET translation does a good job with its rendering of this verse.
Not only does the tongue corrupt the whole person, but it also sets on fire and wreaks havoc throughout one’s life. Careless words destroy relationships and destroy lives. We hurt feelings and ruin relationships. We also hurt our own lives by our tongues. We get ourselves in all sorts of trouble because we are not “slow to speak” (1:19). Did you see that James says that the tongue pollutes the entire body? We need to see that our tongues are corrupting us! The words that we say corrupt our hearts. We see speak with filthy, crude language we are corrupting our hearts and our thinking. This has been James’s point. The tongue controls the body. When our tongues are foul and filthy and are not godly and pure, then our bodies will follow along. When we gossip and speak malicious words, then we become ugly people with dark hearts. When we slander people, we are exposing our cold hearts. Our words darken our hearts and stain our souls.
Further, our words change people. Our tongues set fire to the course of human existence. This cycle just keeps going and going from generation to generation. Our careless words and hurtful words are harming people and setting the lives of others on fire.
- Can you discern your errors?
- O Lord fill me with the holy spirit that I may subject my emotions under control in Jess’ name. Amen.
FURTHER READING: 1 Samuel 12:15-25; Jeremiah 25:1-14; Matthew 24:35-51
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ESOCS Devotional 31 March 2023