Keeping control of what comes out of your mouth is one of the hardest parts of living the holy life! And he recognises that it is a struggle for all of us – we all stumble in many ways.
James uses three illustrations to make the point:
- A horse needs a bit in its mouth to allow the reins to bring it under control; So taming the tongue keeps our whole body under control. How many times have we opened our mouths and stuck our foot in it!
- A ship has a tiny rudder to steer the whole ship; That 3 inch long bit of flesh makes a whole load of difference.
- A forest fire is started by a tiny flame. A carelessly discarded bottle or cigarette end can destroy massive forests as they see in California and Australia most years.
Each one shows us that the tongue might be tiny but what it does can bring a lot of good or a lot of harm. Jesus said that what comes out of our mouths is an overflow of what is in our hearts – James says the same in v.11 – does a spring bring both fresh and salt water? Does a fig tree bear olives or a vine, figs?
So James exhorts us to find wisdom. To get wisdom therefore from above, because that kind of wisdom isn’t jealous or selfish. Proverbs teaches us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. So filling our hearts with the Lord – loving the Bible, praying, worshipping, enjoying the presence of the Lord will make us wise. It will give us godly wisdom That will change how our mouths speak and that will bring mercy, good fruit and sincerity. And it will bring a harvest too. The harvest comes as we speak words of encouragement and the ‘good news’ to others.
Marinate on that.