“I can’t believe I said that to them. C’mon, Britney, you taught on James 3 the other day.”
This is the narrative in my mind after I’ve said something I’ve regretted. Maybe you can relate?
James 3:2 says, “For we all stumble in many ways…” But just because we all mess up with our words doesn’t mean we are to use grace as an excuse not to grow in maturity and Christ-likeness. James continues to say later in the chapter, “these things ought not to be so.”
While there is grace for our errors, James 3:2 reminds us that the best test of spiritual maturity is found in how well we control our tongue.
Maturity is defined as having attained a final or desired state. And Samuel Ullman said that, “Maturity is the ability to think, speak, and act your feelings within the bounds of dignity.”
Where are we on the path to spiritual maturity? Do we still struggle with consistent lying, gossip, bragging, tearing others down, cussing etc.?
This isn’t about our salvation. No, this is for our personal holiness that we are called to mimic Jesus in our actions as well as our intentions.
“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)
Maybe you don’t think what you say is actually that big of a deal?
What we say is directly connected to our thoughts and motivations. Who are we allowing to control these thoughts and motivations? Our selfish desires?
There is a way to allow our thoughts and motivations to change, because they have to change before our words will change. This isn’t done by reading self-help books or trying to be better or refraining from saying anything at all.
Hope is found in the Holy Spirit. We must surrender our thoughts and motivations to the Holy Spirit. He is the only one who can guide us in what we speak.
James goes on to argue his point using three examples: a horse, a ship, and a forest fire.
If we represent the horse and the ship in James’ analogy, then the Holy Spirit is the rider with the reins and the captain controlling the rudder.
The forest fire analogy emphasizes the negative side. In verse 6, James isn’t saying believers who can’t tame their tongues will end up in hell. He is saying disaster will follow and spread in the lives of believers who can’t surrender their tongues to the Holy Spirit.
James urges us not to be content with a “wild” tongue, in verse 9. We discredit what God is doing in our lives, when we go from praising God to cursing men.
Cursing includes any expression of hatred or condemnation made against someone. ALL hateful or ungodly speech. This includes venting to “get it off our chest.” Or gossiping but following with “but she’s a really nice person though.” What you say negatively about others reflects more about you than it does about who you are talking about.
Have you ever been told “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all?” How quiet would some of us live if that were the case.
We are called to “lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our savior.” (1 Timothy 2:2-3)
Read James 3
Why is it important that we “tame” our tongues?
What is one thing you can do to tame your tongue?