There are two similar points made in todays passage. Both points are warning against the danger of saying one thing one minute, only to find yourself doing or saying the opposite the next. Truly, nobody is perfect and truly all of us have made many mistakes in the things we have said and done. Our ministers and teachers, our pastors and preachers have all failed to live up to the standards they have worked so hard to teach us about. But the point is not to be perfect, the point is to realise how imperfect we are and try to do something about it. We can all think of something we wish we had never said and that is what makes this passage such an important one. Everyone can relate to the damage they have seen done by the smallest little word said in spite or with malice. And so everyone can begin to see how they might need to hold their tongue – or put another way, see how the things they might say could be sinful. I reckon that understanding this lesson from James is an important step on the endless journey we travel in search of our sins and their redemption.
James 3:1-10 NLT
Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly. Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way. We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!
There is a saying ringing around my mind which goes: “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”. Now, after trawling my brain as to where I know that from, all I can offer is, I think it’s a line from “Bambi”. I wish I could do exactly that though. Just keep my mouth shut. My father was forever asking: “Why can’t you engage your brain before you open your mouth, Boy?” I must have been a trying child, and I must admit many of my friendships have been sorely tested over the years, by my often breathtaking lack of tact. My goal today and from now on, is to try with renewed vigour, to engage my brain in future, before opening my unreliable mouth.
Ezekiel 39:1-40:27, James 2:18-3:18, Psalm 118:1-18, Proverbs 28:2