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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Words of My Mouth (Psa 19:14)

In the middle of James's epistle, he explains to his readers about the nature of saving faith -- it produces works (James 2:14-26). Necessarily. Faith without works is dead. That faith cannot save. The very next topic that James addresses -- keeping in mind that faith produces works -- is the topic of ... the tongue.

Isn't that interesting?

He talks about the danger of too many becoming teachers (James 3:1). He says that teachers could incur judgment, but that we all stumble in many ways (James 3:2). Keep that in mind. None of us are without error. None of us achieve sinless perfection. "We all stumble in many ways." So, with that in mind, James goes on to talk about the tongue.

He compares it to the bit in the horse's mouth and the rudder of a ship (James 3:3-5), small things that change the courses of large things. Like a spark that sets a forest ablaze (James 3:5), the tongue is a small thing that "it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison." (James 3:8)

It is interesting to note, in James's discussion that, while the bit or the rudder changes the directions of big things, it is not the bit or the rudder that chooses the direction. In the case of the ship, for instance, it is the pilot. The pilot uses the rudder to direct the ship. So, what is the problem with the tongue? It is the pilot, the director. In the human case, it is the heart. Just as the "rudder" that directs the "ship" is the result of the "pilot", our words are the result of the heart. Our mouths, in their most candid moments, evince the ugliness that is in our hearts. James speaks of fountains and fig trees, of the fact that things do not produce both good and bad (James 3:11-14). James warns of our duplicity, appearing to speak good when our hearts are evil. "If you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth." (James 3:14)

I cannot imagine a more appropriate message for our life and times. We have honed words to a 144 character knife edge, wielding them like a sword to slice and dice our opponents. People who call themselves Christians will seek to correct wayward opponents with foul language and ugly words as if this is "godly". Corner some "loving Christians" and they will respond with vitriol and vituperative words. Some will even end the string with "love you, brother." From the relative anonymity of the Internet, "We bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God." (James 3:9) James says, "From the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way." (James 3:10)

So, keeping in mind the original thought -- faith produces works -- and keeping in mind that the problem of the small thing that changes big things is not the small thing, but the heart, we need to ask ourselves, "What does my tongue say about my heart?" We need to question our use of words, our choice of language, the things we say to others and why. In a way, the Internet can be helpful here because in a way the Internet provides us a less guarded place to speak, so we can have the evil within more clearly exposed.

We all sin in many ways. We all err in our words because we all fight with a heart problem. But that doesn't mean we're excused, that we should go on about our business. It means that we ought to be in the business of seeking out and correcting the sin in our hearts. That work of God will be displayed in our words. It ought to be the concern of every true believer.

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