Topic: The power of the tongue
James 3:2 (NKJV) For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.
For the most part, nobody sets out to stumble unless they’re a comedian, or they have an ulterior motive. We can all agree that most of the time when a person stumbles, it’s because they tripped on something they didn’t see. They were walking along and all of a sudden, they found themselves ‘off balance’.
Stumbling doesn’t always result in a ‘fall’. It might only result in a second or two of staggering. Either way, it’s embarrassing to stumble, if you didn’t do it on purpose.
When someone accidently stumbles, for a short time, they’re not in control. Most people want to be in control—or appear to be in control—so it’s generally not someone’s goal to stumble.
I’ve stumbled quite a few times in my life, and you probably have, too. The results of stumbling can range from being off balance momentarily—to a terrible fall, involving serious injury or death.
It’s interesting that the writer of this verse decided to use the act of stumbling to shed light on what can happen to a person when they don’t use wisdom in the way they speak. It’s a perfect comparison in so many ways.
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Let’s look a little further at the insight about ‘the tongue’ given In James chapter three, found in verses three through twelve. We’ll start with verses three through five (NKJV): ‘Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles!
The idea of comparing ‘stumbling’ to ‘misspoken words’ is advanced a little more when you consider the power it takes to steer a large ship in a storm, or the force and destruction created by a forest fire. On one hand, a person who uses their tongue wisely in conversation can have a powerful, positive influence—while a person who speaks impulsively without proper wisdom, can find themselves in a world of hurt.
In verse six, James the Apostle, continues to express more of how the human tongue is like a fire, in that it possesses the potential of causing a huge amount of evil.
James goes on to say that the position of the tongue amongst the other parts of our body, is such that it actually has the capability of defiling or contaminating the rest of our body when it is used improperly. In the same way an evil fire can change the course of nature, our tongue can create a negative and destructive outcome to our physical body and circumstances that would not have been necessary, if wrong words had not been said.
In verses seven and eight of James three, we are told that every kind of beast, bird, reptile, and creature of the sea is capable of being tamed, and has been tamed by humans—but no human is able to tame the human tongue. The last part of verse eight says that the tongue is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. I don’t know what something unruly and full of deadly poison reminds you of, but I get the picture of a venomous snake in my mind. Imagine having a poisonous snake in your mouth that had the power to strike out and kill someone.
James makes yet another sobering point in the final verses we’re examining. He points out that we use our tongue to bless God, who is our Heavenly Father…yet, we also use it to curse people, who God made in His own image. When you think about it that way, it would be almost as though we were cursing God, if we cursed something He made in His likeness—which would of course be a very wrong thing to do.
In closing, James encourages us to ponder whether a person could obtain both fresh and bitter water from the same spring. He questions if it would be possible to harvest olives from a fig tree, or figs from a grapevine…and concludes that no spring produces both salt water and fresh.
Even though it’s impossible to have complete control over our words, we should spend more effort trying.
Declaration: I will find new strength by taking my own words more seriously. I will pay special attention so that my words don’t cause me to stumble and in the process, bring a curse on myself—or others—or insult my Heavenly Father. Through the power given by the Holy Spirit, I will practice speaking positive, powerful words that bring life and healing.
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