James: A Slave of Christ Day Four: Chapter 3
Today, I would like you to begin by reading the entire chapter. This will give you a better perspective as we move forward in our brief study. Reading it again after you finish the devotion will prove helpful in solidifying the truths presented here. The opening part of this chapter makes every single one of us cringe—or so it should. When we are open and honest with ourselves, we can easily recall times when our tongues have landed us in hot water. My own tongue has literally shocked me at times, and then I simply had to acknowledge that what was in my heart found its way out of my mouth, and that is often a tough pill to swallow. With my head hung low, I can easily remember times I spoke harshly, falsely, or carelessly.
James uses two analogies that are interesting to think on. A large horse is controlled by a tiny bit placed in its mouth, forcing obedience in the direction it should go. The same is true of a huge ship tossed around by the magnificent force of the ocean. Its rudder sets the course, avoiding disaster. Both these large things are restrained by something so small, yet our own bodies struggle against controlling something tiny—our tongues. James says our tongues can set forth a tiny spark that leads to a forest fire. In other words, we say something foolish, and it quickly explodes, causing widespread damage.
We are reminded in this chapter of how we can easily train animals—some faster than others. I’m currently an owner of an unruly Jack Russell puppy. He has the attention span of a gnat, yet possesses a stubborn determination to have his own way. But a year down the road, with the help of a professional trainer, we will hopefully have an obedient, well-mannered dog. The things humans can do to train animals is quite impressive, and yet we lack the ability to train our own tongues. James points out the paradox in how we use our tongues: we speak good things, and we speak bad things; we are double-tongued. This should not be the case for believers. Practically speaking, we are not being genuine when we share Christ with someone but then turn around and gossip or speak harshly to someone else. As Christians, all our words should be true, kind, honorable, respectful, and in every way, godly. May I just clarify that I fail here—miserably! So, our hearts should desire the purification of our tongues from the poison they are capable of.
The final few verses discuss true wisdom—something we all should want for ourselves. Often though, we look for it in the wrong places. James reminds us that true wisdom comes from God. This wisdom is pure, peace-loving, gentle, merciful, sincere, and shows no partiality. This can’t be taught through academia, nor can we acquire it from our parents; it’s found in knowing God and studying His Word (and obeying it). If we are wise, our lives will prove it by the way we live. If we are not, we will be characterized by selfish ambition and jealousy, both completely contrary to the character of Christ.
A summation of this chapter would call us to two specific things: control our tongues and seek after the wisdom of God. When we study God’s Word and understand what He desires of us, we gain wisdom. As we gain spiritual wisdom, we will be better equipped to control our tongues. Each topic discussed here will call us to be intentional in our study of God’s Word and in our obedience that flows from understanding. Words cannot be taken back—this is good to remember before we speak. Our tongues can be so damaging, and so we must remind ourselves daily to speak carefully and with godly wisdom. Pray today for God’s help in learning to control your tongue. Pray for His wisdom to flow through every area of your life, so that you may bring honor and glory to our Heavenly Father.
So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. (James 3:5-6, ESV)
From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. (James 3:10)
Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. (James 3:13)
Please read James chapter 3 in addition to today’s devotion.