My Corner Online


James 3:2-7

his repeats what was in 2:10 (keep the whole law and yet stumble at one point) and 1:26 (bridle the mouth). See those notes.  Even Jesus's disciple Nathaniel used his mouth to mock, "Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?" (John 1:46) And Jesus disciples James and John used their mouth to elevate themselves, "Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” (Mark 10:37) Peter, the one called "the rock," had a big mouth, always having something to say. Peter sticks his foot in his mouth over and over again. Peter boasts (see John 13:36-38)  Peter even denies Christ with his tongue.  Not one of us can tame our wild tongue all the time.


3:4-6 This analogy to a ship and a tongue first puts into perspective how strong the winds that push against the ship and how small yet powerful the rudder that controls the ship against the winds. In the same way the tongue is a small member of the body (like the rudder) and yet is so powerful and in control.


In the same small-large analogy is the spark of flame that can set a whole forest on fire. That spark must be controlled. In the same way the tongue is a small spark that can set a whole world on fire, either for eternal life or eternal death, and must be controlled. I remember a song from my childhood: "It only takes a spark, to get a fire going. And soon all those around can warm up to its glowing. That's how it is with God's love, once you've experienced it. You spread his love to everyone. You want to pass it on." The spark can be good or bad. A spark can be destructive or constructive. A bad spark, such as something I say to someone that hurts, can last in a mind forever, and be brought up and put into flame at any time, turning a molehill into a mountain. Flames spread fast and become uncontrollable, spreading destruction quickly. Once the words are spoken, they cannot be taken back. Not even an apology can fix it. The fire cannot be stopped and eventually cannot be controlled. The damage is irreversible. One can only rebuild from scratch. Consider the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 that killed 300 people and  left more than 100,000 residents homeless. Speculation is that Ms. O'Leary's cow or a bunch of gamblers knocked over a lantern. Such carelessness with a small fire grew into total destruction. Some sparks come in the form of bickering, boasting, lies, gossip, reputation ruining, and ridicule.


A good spark, such as encouraging words, can also last in the mind forever, and the contagious feeling of love is passed on to others as it grows and grows. A good fire can be warm and comforting. What kinds of words does Jesus speak? Jesus gave his disciple Nathaniel acceptance, "“Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!" (John 1:47) Jesus reminded James and John of service (Mark 10:43).  Jesus forgave Peter, gave him instruction, and offered him a fresh start. Jesus welcomes, forgives, and teaches.  Lord, tame my tongue and guard my words so that they may be sweet like a honeycomb (Proverbs 16:24) and may I not be careless with my words. With You, O Lord, in my heart, what comes out of my mouth will surely be good! Oh, I gladly choose to use my mouth to praise You, my awesome Lord! Set a watchtower over my lips today, oh Lord. (just like a tower guarding over raging forest fires)


Even if the whole body works for Jesus, the tongue can mess it up with one unrighteousness. Do I have control over my tongue? Control over my tongue starts with control of my thoughts because what is in the mind and heart eventually comes out of the mouth. What is in my heart is the Holy Spirit. If I can control my mouth, I can control myself (body). The mouth affects the whole person, like a rudder affects the whole boat or the bit affects the whole horse.  Just like a horse out of control or a ship out of control or a fire out of control can do damage, so can my tongue out of control. Sometimes I think that the answer to controlling my mouth is to be silent. I often use this strategy by listening and merely acknowledging that I have heard, not saying anything else. However, the ship has to move in order for the rudder to work and the horse has to run in order for the bridle to work. Movement has to happen for something to be controlled.  My mouth has to move; it has to move for good and not bad.


3:7 All beasts and birds can be tamed by man because God "let them rule" in Genesis 1:26. However, I cannot imagine myself taming a lion!  I'll let the lion tamer do that! For as hard as it is to tame the most beastly, it is even less possible to tame my own tongue. Let's face it.  My tongue is a vessel of sin. God's Word sure does remind me of my sinful self. This makes me thankful for Jesus dying for me! Only the Holy Spirit, God himself, can control my tongue.  Holy Spirit, give me power to control and monitor this tongue of mine! Amen