James 3:1-18 (The Tongue)

'My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect (mature) man, able also to bridle the whole body' (v1,2).
If we can control our tongue we can control our whole body and life because the tongue is the control centre of body and mind. What we think on is controlled by what we say - this is how we are designed. Start by filling your thoughts with goodness by speaking the scriptures to yourself, and your life will be blessed.

Picture 1: HORSES: 'Indeed, we put bits in horses' mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body' (v3). A small bit in a large horse’s mouth can be used to cause it to obey our will and turn it where we want. Our life may seem big, too big to direct and turn around and going too fast to control, but exerting control on our mouth, we can steer it into green pastures.

Picture 2: SHIPS: 'Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder (tongue) wherever the pilot desires' (v4).
Our life is like a large sailing ship blown around by strong winds (pressures). A ships course is controlled by the pilot using a small rudder. We are the pilot, controlling our life’s direction by our tongue, which, though small, is the most powerful member of our body. It’s the instrument we use to determine our direction and destiny. We can steer our ship on a steady course into good waters or just let the rudder go and turn any way it wants (a loose tongue) bringing shipwreck. We must chart our course by the Word and hold fast our confession when fierce winds blow, in order to stay on course. Some destroy their lives and reputations by letting their tongue speak evil and gossip. Even if they think it is in secret, word eventually gets out and people think less of them and distance themselves from them. When people can’t trust you are on the outside of things.

Picture 3: FIRE: This is the destructive power of the tongue-for evil words release spiritual power. 'Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body (if your tongue yields to sin then it brings your whole body into disease and under the power of sin), and sets on fire (destroys) the course of nature (the natural course, harmony and cycles of your life); and it is set on fire by hell' (v5,6).

This happens if you don’t guard your tongue. A small unguarded fire can set a whole forest alight. An unguarded tongue spreads strife The devil does not have direct power over you, he can only bring destruction to your life if he can get your tongue (by setting your tongue on fire from hell).

Picture 4: WILD ANIMALS: 'For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison' (v7,8). The tongue is like a wild beast which needs to be tamed and brought under control but this is only possible by God’s power (by depending on the help of the Holy-Spirit, speaking the Word and speaking in tongues).

Picture 5: SPRINGS: 'With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening?' -NO! Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? (NO!). Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh' (v9-12).
This is a paradox!

The solution is that there are 2 fountains in us (our reborn spirit and the flesh) that want to send water (words) out of the same outlet (mouth). One always gives fresh water, the other always gives bitter water. Only one can flow at any time. Don’t yield to the bitter (negative) water, but the sweet water (love, joy, peace) of the Spirit. We should control our tongue so we speak blessing only, blocking the flow of the bad water. A Fig-Tree produces figs only (the flesh can only produce death not life = olives). The Vine only produces grapes not figs, so the spirit can only produce life not death. So we choose life by yielding our tongues to the spirit-fountain and speaking words of life.

v13-18 tell us how to recognise the source of the wisdom (words), whether above or below. Sometimes we don’t know if the words welling up inside us or the words of others are from below or above. We must learn from the Word and experience how to discern this, for wisdom from below is often disguised in spiritual language, promoting itself as righteous and well-motivated.

Test (1) You tell by the taste (characteristics) of the water - is it meek (submissive to authority) or bitter, proud, and self-promoting? Is it self-righteous based on a desire to be first, envious of others and wanting status: 'Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic' (v13-15).

Or is it sweet and humble?: 'But the wisdom (WORDS) from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield (what happens if one contradicts or disagrees?), full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy' (v17).

Test (2) You tell by the end-result (fruit). Stuff can still get under our radar so we need this 2nd test so we can learn from our mistakes. Does it bring peace and good-living, or cause strife and division: 'For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion (strife) and every evil thing are there' (v16) and 'Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace (taste) by those who make peace (fruit)



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