Have you ever listened to a song lyric and thought, “Well, that’s pretty stupid”?
You find the music catchy, but that’s not what it’s all about. The words are arguably the most important part of the song. The words contain the message, the essence, and the heart of the writer and artist. Words possess power and weakness, blessings and curses, life and death.
Making our way into the third chapter of The Book of James in our Collide series, we’re confronted with the reality of the power of words and the source of those words. So, what does the word of God have to say about our tongue and the words that come from it?
To further this point, even the creation story in Genesis tells a similar story. God, the author and creator of all of existence, didn’t do so with His hands. He did it with words. Genesis Chapter 1: “God said… and there was…” He spoke.
Some of you are walking fully confident in yourself and your calling because of a word given to you about your purpose, your impact, and your value.
Others of us limp in this life with the weight of a passing comment meant to tear you down many years ago that you still haven’t healed from. Some of our current issues are because of an old trauma centered around someone's words.
The tongue has great potential and is also a great problem. As James points out, the tongue is many things, but summed up; it's complicated.
THE TONGUE IS ACCOUNTABLE
It says not many of you should become teachers. We need some context here. Why is James writing this? James is writing from the mother church in Jerusalem to these other churches, and their context for spiritual authority was the Pharisees, religious leadership that came with prestige and respect. It was a desired position because of the clout it came with.
But James is saying, “Not many of you should do this because of the responsibility that comes with it.” Therefore, you will be held to a higher standard than most for sharing and spreading messages that, “Come from God.”
THE TONGUE IS POWERFUL
All of these examples are SMALL but control big things. Yet, ironically, something so small can have more control over us than we think.
As so, if the analogy transfers, we could say that having control over your tongue means you have control over your whole body, as he mentions in verse.
So, another way of thinking about it is this:
We’ve all experienced someone who can’t control what they say whether that’s gossiping, slander, rude jokes, or hurtful comments. But their speech usually isn’t the only thing that they can’t control. It may be their finances, social media behavior, substance consumption… the mouth is just a minor indicator of the issues we all struggle with.
So, this begs the question, why? Why is the tongue so hard to control?
So, yes, this is a tongue issue, but its source is not the tongue. It’s the heart. The tongue is like a microphone for what’s happening inside of us. And what does the Bible tell us about the heart? That it’s great and abounding in love for our fellow man?
And this is so important to understand and unpack. Our tongues are hard to control because the source of what comes out of the mouth is a desperately wicked heart. We are a fallen humanity in desperate need of a Savior; from the inside out.
And the reason we’re pointing this out is because if we properly understand the issue, then we can adequately address the solution.
That’s easier said than done.
THE TONGUE IS INCONSISTENT
There’s a huge disconnect between our worship of God and the speech towards the people He has made. It’s inconsistent.
We have forgotten that how we talk about people says a lot about what we believe about God. Could you imagine if God was like this? If He expressed love, adoration, and affection to us through song and then was chatting up the angels with how stupid we are sometimes?
You can’t have it both ways. You can’t declare love for God and disdain for those created in His image. However, that’s not to say you can’t disagree with people, that doesn’t mean we don’t stand against evil in this work, and it certainly doesn’t mean we keep our mouths shut all the time.
Our issue now becomes doubly complicated because it’s not just about taming the tongue but addressing the content of our hearts. We are dealing with an accountable, powerful, and inconsistent weapon that we all have, all misuse, and according to James, can’t control.
So, what do we do?
We deal with the source of our words so that our words and our worship match. That way, we are blessing both God and those around us. And there are two things we need to do when aiming to deal with our mouths and hearts.
The truth is our tongues reflect a very wicked, deceitful, and problematic heart at times that’s inconsistent with the songs we sing. But it mirrors things in our lives that need to change.
As a church, we must honestly confess our tongues' misuse. To repent of the ways we've used words to tear down instead of buildup, we need to be honest and repent of the death we spread. The first step in restoration and healing is admittance. Coming to grips with what comes out of our mouths has been destructive at times.
We have the Holy Spirit – and we desperately need its help. Even though the human tongue cannot be tamed by any one of us, it can be tamed by the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives.
This is possible, but we need to receive it.
But you can’t have it both ways. You can’t be filled until you’ve been honest. You can’t have one without the other.
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