James is a tough book for me to wrap my arms, head, and heart around. It sometimes seems to run contrary to the letters Paul wrote, which discuss at length how we can’t do anything to earn our salvation, we are saved by grace alone… it’s all good. But then James writes “You know… if you don’t do anything then you’re up the creek.”
So, these books seem to be in contrast to one another, but they’re really not.
Let me start off by telling you this: You’re going to hear all kinds of stuff that sounds Biblical, especially when it comes to signs of Jesus returning and the End Times coming upon us. The truth is in the Bible – very plain and clearly – we have no idea when Jesus is returning!
So, you need to live a way that is in preparation for that day, but don’t freak out.
Getting back to James. The third chapter of James is short, but perhaps one of the most important chapters of the whole book. It talks mostly about controlling your mouth, which is one of the greatest areas of weakness in my life. My first instinct, whenever I hear someone say ANYTHING, is to pop off with an opinion of my own. The greatest lesson I have learned (and struggled with) is to wait.
If you get an email from someone, or a text message, or a voice message, or hear something live from someone that instantly ticks you off – do not respond immediately. If you can, give yourself 15-30 minutes before responding, in order to cool down.
This is what James is saying in James 3:2-6
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.
3 We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth.4 And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. 5 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. 6 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.
Let’s chew on this for a bit.
If you’re like me and you believe that what is written in the Bible is truth and infallible, then this verse is INCREDIBLE! The problem is that most of us find it incredibly DIFFICULT to control what comes out of our mouths.
And if verses 3-6 doesn’t make you squirm, I don’t know what will!
7 People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, 8 but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison.
Did you get that? It doesn’t say “a few chosen people can tame the tongue”. It says “NO ONE can tame the tongue”.
9 Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. 10 And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! 11 Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? 12 Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring.
There is so much wisdom here! Speaking of wisdom, that’s exactly what James writes about in the ensuing paragraph:
13 If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom.
Are you familiar with that word? Humility? It’s the opposite of boastfulness. It means, “Yes, sir. No, sir.” It means not talking down to someone. Humility is making someone else more important than yourself.
14 But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying.15 For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic.
Demonic? Holy Cow! If that doesn’t punch the air out of you, what will? Let that resonate in you!
17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. 18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.
Here’s something that I really, really want you to think about it. Write it down, if you can. Before you speak, write the reply email or text, ask yourself, “Is what I want to say true, necessary, and kind?” If it passes that test, then by all means, hit SEND. But hold back if it doesn’t pass this test.