“The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” (Prov. 12:18)
Proverbs 21:23 provides us with a few insightful words for the present times we a living in. It reads, “One who guards his mouth and his tongue, Guards his soul from troubles.” Every person’s way may seem right in his own eyes, but God examines the hearts and motives (Prov. 21:2). As I mentioned in Part 2, James explained in chapters 1 and 2 p, two characteristics of the mature Christian: they are patient in trouble and practice the truth. James also shared a third characteristic of the mature believer: they have power over their tongue.
In order to express the importance of controlling our speech, and the enormous consequences of our words, let’s take a look at what James had to say about the six pictures of the tongue: the bit, the rudder, fire, a poisonous animal, a fountain, and a fig tree that reveal the power of the tongue in James 3:2-12, “Do not become teachers in large numbers, my brothers, since you know that we who are teachers will incur a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to rein in the whole body as well. Now if we put the bits into the horses’ mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their whole body as well. Look at the ships too: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are nevertheless directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot determines. So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things.”
See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of unrighteousness; the tongue is set among our body’s parts as that which defiles the whole body and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. But no one among mankind can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, these things should not be this way. Does a spring send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, bear olives, or a vine bear figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh.”
The term perfect in Strong’s Concordance signifies “complete” which conveys the idea of goodness without reference to maturity or physical development. 1 Luke 6:45 says, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil person out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.”
The third characteristic can be put into three meaningful classifications that reveal the three powers of the tongue:
Power to Direct: the Bit and Rudder (3:1-4)
Apparently, everybody in the flock wanted to teach and be a spiritual leader, for James warning them: not to become teachers “since you know that we who are teachers will incur a stricter judgment.” Maybe they were impressed with the authority and prestige of the office, and forgot about the tremendous responsibility and accountability. It is a tremendous responsibility to carry the Word the of the Lord. Those who teach the Word face a stricter judgment and must use their tongues to share God’s truth. They must also practice what the teach, otherwise the teaching is hypocrisy.
But teachers are not the only ones who can “stumble in many ways” (v.2a). Each one of us can stumble in this area if we are not careful. Especially in today’s negative climate. The person who is able to discipline their tongue gives evidence that they can control their whole body. They prove that they are mature believers when they control their tongues. If we desire to love life and see good days, we must learn to keep our tongues from evil and our lips from speaking deceit (Prov. 15:4).
I’ll continue with the bit and rudder in part 3a.
Notes: All Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible unless otherwise noted.
- Perfect , perfectly, – Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, https://studybible.info/vines/Perfect%20(Adjective%20and%20Verb),%20Perfectly