Earlier today, I was browsing through some email and noticed a photo of the front cover of a tabloid paper which displayed in giant letters, “LILY: I’M PREGGERS”
Amused I thought, “We wouldn’t find that on the front cover of the Washington Post or the New York Times.” Front-cover language reflects on a “news”-paper’s level of believability as far as news goes, right? Obviously, the headline in question comes from a celebrity gossip tabloid.
While I was reading the current passage from James (3:1-12), it occurred to me that our tongue, like the front page headlines on any newsstand paper, is also a reflection on us, revealing our level of credibility.
James is very concerned about the tongue and makes mention of it twice in Chapter 1.
“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry”
“If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.”
In the first two verses of Chapter 3, James write, “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways.”
How many of us read that and said, “Phew, this whole passage only applies to teachers, pastors, ministers! I can just skip right over it!” (Insert “out-of-time” game show buzzer sound here.)
Our business cards may not say Pastor, Reverend, Minister, or Father on them, but each and every Christ-follower is a minister, and as such, we must be careful not to dilute the truth, but to make the truth very clear, not only in our lives and how we live, but in our words. According to Ephesians 4:11, each one of us is an apostle, a prophet, an evangelist, a shepherd or a teacher, “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:12-13)
James completes verse 2 by stating “If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.” Who is perfect? Only one, Jesus our Savior.
I wrote about the Taming of the Tongue several months ago, but since we are traveling through the letter of James, let’s take a closer look.
There are several variations of the definition of the adjective “tame.” We use the word to describe a change from wild to domesticated. The word describes the behavior of our housecat. We use it to describe boring parties, conditions that seem to lack life or vigor. But the definition I like to use is this one: brought into service; rendered useful and manageable; under control, as natural resources or a source of power. It’s corresponding and appropriate verb means to harness or control; render useful, as a source of power.
Such a small part of our body holds so much power. James compares the tongue to the rudder of a large ship or the bit that guides the field animal. The tongue is a tiny spark that can burn down whole forests, and James warns in verse 6, “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”
The tongue doesn’t only affect the listener, but the speaker as well. Have you ever known a liar whose each word was so untrustworthy, yet at some point they, themselves, believed the lie? And don’t we lie to ourselves at times? Lies to ourselves can be the source of addictions and immoral behavior which corrupt our whole person and can set the course of our lives on fire. I can imagine the enemy nearby, holding a lighter and just waiting for me to utter some flammable words so he can use it to start a huge four-alarm fire!
The Bible tells us the tongue has the power to bless and to curse. In 3:10, James writes, “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.”
As Spirit-filled Christians, the fruit of our tongue should be love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23) The fruit of the Spirit cannot co-exist with sinfulness.
Consider your own tongue today, and let your own “front page” lend credibility to your public claim to be a believer and full of blessings for others to see!