Your tongue is the clearest picture of God's image in you, so be careful how you use it!
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James 3 (ESV)
1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers,
for you know that
we who teach
will be judged with greater strictness.
2 For we all stumble in many ways.
And if anyone does not stumble in what he says,
he is a perfect man,
able also to bridle his whole body.
3 If we
put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us,
we guide their whole bodies as well.
4 Look at the ships also:
though they are so large
and are driven by strong winds,
they are guided
by a very small rudder
wherever the will of the pilot directs.
5 So also the tongue
a small member,
yet it boasts of great things.
How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!
6 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.
7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature,
can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind,
8 but no human being can tame the tongue.
It is a restless evil,
full of deadly poison.
9 With it
we bless our Lord and Father,
and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.
10 From the same mouth come
My brothers, these things ought not to be so.
11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water?
a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives,
or a grapevine produce figs?
Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.
13 Who is wise and understanding among you?
By his good conduct
show his works
in the meekness of wisdom.
14 But if you have
bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts,
do not boast and be false to the truth.
15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above,
but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.
6 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist,
there will be disorder and every vile practice.
17 But the wisdom from above
is first pure,
then peaceable, gentle, open to reason,
full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.
18 And a harvest of righteousness
is sown in peace
by those who make peace.
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James 3 Summary
Remember that as we read through James that each chapter stands alone and that it's not really building on the chapter that came before or leading into the chapter that follows. The letter is likely a collections of sermons that James had taught that were sent out to churches James could not physically go to. Even the individual chapters consist of several independent units.
This is why we can say that James is the New Testament version of Proverbs.
Chapter three has two independent passages, and both of today's lessons draw from the same root concept: that what comes out of us must reflect what is in us (or phrased differently, what we are in).
Think back to the most difficult interpersonal challenges that you've experienced, and it's highly likely that the whole problem stemmed from something somebody said. Words are powerful things, and almost impossible to contain once they've come out. It's no wonder James compares the words we speak to a fast moving forest fire (v5) or deadly poison (v8).
With something so dangerous, it certainly would be a good idea to reduce the amount you use your tongue, as we read a couple of days ago:
everyone should be quick to listen and slow to speak... (1:9)
That doesn't mean, however, that you shouldn't use your tongue at all, just that you must be very careful that it's blessing and not cursing that's coming out (v10).
James also imparts the best way to properly use your tongue. He writes that it must be guided by a wisdom that comes from above... a wisdom that:
is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere (v17).
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father is the source of good wisdom (v17)
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Ask God that your tongue may be an instrument of blessing and not cursing.
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: