Listening to James – Part 3

By: Pastor Jarren Rogers

“Words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness” – Mother Theresa

James is on a roll. First, he explains how we must be doers and not just hearers of the word. Then, he tells us that faith without works is useless. And it is in the third chapter of James we find yet another nugget of practical truth from James.

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:7-8).

James stresses the importance of his message with powerful and extreme words. In the last chapter, he went so far as to say that faith without works is “dead”! In this chapter, James chooses his words very carefully. 

He doesn’t just say, “Watch what you say.” No. Instead, he suggests that the tongue is something which must be “tamed”. It is something that must be trained and taught. It must submit to the power of the tamer. The tongue is wild and unruly and must be subdued. 

The image of a lion tamer comes to mind. Locked in a cage with the wild and dangerous animal, armed with little more than a whip and a stool. In the savannah, the lion is ruler, but in the middle of the circus floor, it is the lion tamer who is in charge. Every command and order is followed. The climax of the performance is when the tamer peels open the powerful lion’s jaws and sticks his head amongst the razor-sharp teeth. With one swift move, the man would lose his life. But the lion dares not bite down. He has been tamed.

There is no way of knowing how many hours went into taming this lion. How many times had the lion gotten out of line and needed to be reminded who was really in charge? How long had it taken before the tamer was confident that the lion would not kill him whenever he stuck his head between its jaws?

In many ways, taming our tongue can be even more difficult. But, listen to James, it is when we can finally get our tongue under control that the rest of our body will follow.

Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check” (James 3:2).

Our tongues are a great contradiction. On Sundays, praise and worship can pour out of our mouths. Great words of encouragement and truth are extended to our brother and sisters in Christ. Great hope can be found in the words that we speak.

But, if we aren’t careful, destruction can come from that same tongue. Words that break people down. Gossip that ruins reputations, spreading lies and slander. Hate can be transmitted quickest through our words for another.

But so can love.

Lord, help us to tame our difficult, dangerous, powerful, unruly tongues. Help us to bring hope and sing your praise from the same mouth. 

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