“Spiritual maturity is evidenced by the use of the tongue… Tongue-mastery is the fruit of self-mastery.”
– Sinclair Ferguson
James 3: 1 – 12 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 among all the parts of the body, 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! Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring.”
The focus of James 3:1-12 is controlling the tongue. Various analogies are used throughout this segment to teach the hindrance and downfalls of using your voice incorrectly. Perhaps you’re familiar with the quote:
“If speaking kindly to plants helps them grow, imagine what speaking kindly to humans can do.”
We’re all told to be nice, to be kind to others, but I found this passage refreshing as I thought of some of the freedoms of speech we have today. Thinking on our media outlets, before the invention of social media, our media was primarily one way. You’d watch the news, or read the paper. Our current reality, is a user interaction – a two-way dialogue. The comments that pile up on chat forums, Facebook pages and news headlines on social media are pretty horrible at times. Reading this first part of James chapter 3 reminds us that our words, whether in person or typed, have weight. They have the ability to hinder or to grow. It’s the basic principle of kindness. I’m not sure lately, why speaking out especially about serious issues has to be so harsh. Our relationships, our world, relies on the encouragement of the tongue. James quotes “blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth”. Our mouths have been given the ability of doing either, it’s what we are putting our efforts into. I challenge you to stop your train of thought, ask God how to say something, perhaps in a better way. Even the way you word something can have all the difference. Because at the end of the day, that is what spiritual maturity looks like — or better, sounds like — because of the transformation of our use of the tongue.
A careless word may kindle strife;
A cruel word may wreck a life.
A bitter word may instill;
A brutal word may smite and kill.
A gracious word may smooth the way;
A joyous word may light the day.
A timely word may lessen stress;
A loving word may heal and bless.
– Author Unknown