I think I’m a slow learner. Something I have realized about myself is that I don’t retain the things I read or hear, on the first exposure. I often have to ask a person’s name repeatedly, before I can process it and connect the name and face. And if you’re one of my pregnant friends, you know, that I will ask you about your due date 150 times before your little one arrives. I do care. I just CANNOT REMEMBER.
It frustrates me when I read something and think, “this is so profound! I need to remember this.” Then ten minutes later I can’t remember what I read.
But recently we had a Sunday School lesson on that really stuck with me. I think a lot of the credit goes to the teacher. She is such a gift to our class. Teaching seems to come natural to her, and to me she is the ideal Titus 2 woman, instructing the younger women.
(“Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers… They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.”)
This particular lesson was James chapter 3. I have read this chapter plenty of times, it’s one that was often referenced in my childhood church home, and it always was convicting to me. But this time, I have continued to meditate on it for over 2 weeks now. I hope I will continue to keep it in my heart. It was a lesson packed with wisdom. One that clobbered me over the head with conviction, and inspired me to grow and be better.
It started out by addressing one of my most glaring weaknesses…my big mouth. James said, (I paraphrase,) “We all stumble in many ways. If anyone doesn’t stumble in word, the same is a perfect (complete, mature) man, and able to control the whole body.”
Wait a minute. Did he just say that once we tame our tongue, we have essentially conquered sin in our whole body? I believe that’s what he’s saying. He reiterates it in verse 3:
He must have known that some of us would need multiple metaphors to hammer this truth into our consciousness. He adds yet another in verse 4, saying “Look at the ships! They are huge! And huge fierce winds drive them around, but they are steered with a very small helm, wherever the captain wants to go.”
If the helm is broken on a ship, and a storm comes up, the ship could be destroyed. And my tongue, broken in the fall, could destroy me, if it’s not redeemed by Jesus. I’m getting the feeling that God, through James , is trying to really get my attention here. The metaphors continue.
“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… and set on fire by hell.”
This seems simple, right? Just tame your tongue, and everything else will fall right into line. Easy peasy.
Or maybe not. Check out the next verses:
No human being can tame their tongue. So that means it’s hopeless?My tongue can not be tamed, therefore I may as well just give up and say whatever I want… not?
Wait, let me read that again. No human being can tame the tongue. But my God can! We are freed from the power of sin, by the blood of Jesus. He and only He can tame our tongues. Thus our whole sinful nature can be controlled and sanctified.
It would be nice if this happened directly upon salvation, and my tongue instantly became docile and spirit filled, but that hasn’t been my reality. And I can’t be the only one. I don’t know if James references himself, or his audience, when he writes verses 9-10, but he obviously noticed God-fearing, God-loving people, who had not yet found the key to taming their tongues.
People were blessing God , and then cursing men, who are God’s image bearers. Out of the same mouth. The same tongue. A fountain sending forth both sweet and bitter water, speaking upbuilding words one minute, and destructive words the next.
So if I struggle in choosing my words, am I actually a disciple of Jesus? Is my salvation real?
My personal belief is that we can’t deduct that Christ hasn’t saved us, just because our sin nature still lives in us. We will fight that until we go to be with Jesus. Only in our new bodies will we be fully free from the results of the fall.
Imagine the beauty that was in the Garden of Eden, before sin came. God had created man and woman in His image. Created the tongue as part of a perfect design, in a perfect body. Adam and Eve could only glorify God in their words. No toxicity. No negativity. And then sin entered. And our tongues, once touched by sin, want to speak evil, slanderous things, ever since.
But there is hope. We who are redeemed in Christ have the Holy Spirit! And the Spirit comes with a whole package of free gifts. A basket of fruits, you might say. Let’s look at Galatians 5:22-23. I know, we’ve all read it and know it by heart, but it bears repeating.
God created the tongue, and He called it good. But we know Satan is professional at taking Gods creation, and using it for evil. He rejoices when instead of love and joy, I speak in a snarky, unloving way. He wants me to neglect peace, in favor of disunity and division. To ditch patience, gentleness, goodness; and spew out petulance, harshness, and…whatever the opposite of goodness is…
And self control? Oh, you KNOW he isn’t going to want me to use that in my speech. HE wants control. When I speak in an ungodly way, he wins a battle. Thanks to Jesus, Satan knows he can’t win the war; but that doesn’t stop him from trying to win just as many battles as He can.
Before I open my mouth, I need to think, “I have the Spirit, therefore I am equipped to speak in love. I’m equipped to speak gently. I can speak in a self controlled manner, because the Spirit gives me temperance.”
I pray this is an area of growth in my life. I know God will give me willingly of His wisdom, just for the asking, and I dearly desire to be a woman of whom it can be said: “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the law of kindness is on her tongue.”
I invite and encourage you to call me out if you hear me speak in a non-Christ-like way. That’s what we’re here on earth for, to support and encourage each other.
May you be blessed this week, with grace-laced, Spirit-filled, Christ-led speech . ❤️