The tongue is powerful, vicious, untamable, and inconsistent. That was the outline from this past Sunday’s sermon on James 3:1-12 from Pastor Tom, and it was very true to the text. What I find so interesting about this passage from James is the lack of practical application. I keep expecting the text to give me one, two, or three steps to taming the tongue. Instead, James tells me that no one can tame the tongue. He relentlessly lists all of the evils of the tongue, and even when he talks about the good words that can come from my mouth, he only uses that as a means of showing the duplicity of the tongue. The closest things to application are verse 1, which says you shouldn’t become a teacher too quickly because you will incur a stricter judgment, specifically in relation to what you say, and verse 10, which simply states that the way we praise God and curse men in the same breath should not be so. But even these applications seem to just highlight the poisonous nature of our speech.

In part, I believe the reason James doesn’t give me “7 Steps to Taming Your Tongue” is because the issue is much deeper than my mouth; it’s in my heart. Jesus very clearly says that “it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks” (Mark 12:34). So the words that come out of my mouth are a spill over of my heart. Biting sarcasm, crude speech, gossip, and other sinful uses of words have nothing to do with my tongue; they have everything to do with the state of my heart.

As I consider the consistent evil of my speech and its true source, I am challenged to truly confess the sins of my tongue to others as sins of my heart. It is easy to blame sin, especially sins of the tongue, on something besides myself; to say that a person or circumstance drove me to say something I normally would not. But James 3 calls me to be honest with myself, with my wife and kids, and with others, not glossing over the evil in my heart by saying that I let something slip off my tongue, but confessing the sin in my heart towards them that my words have revealed. And the constant destruction that my tongue can cause, coupled with its untamable nature, will give me ample opportunity to see into the depths of my heart, feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit, confess my sin, and grow in Christlikeness. I can be thankful for that.

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