Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Bridled or Burning: A Discussion on the Tongue

James 3:1-5 "Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2 For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. 3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 4 Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.
How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!"

James 3:1-5 gives us excellent instruction on using our tongue. Ladies, these verses affect us greatly, as we certainly love to use our words, don't we? James shows us that we can use our words under 3 influences. The illustrations begin positively and self controlled, while they end both undirected and completely sinful.
First, verse 2 uses the word "bridle." In Greek, this word means to be self-controlled. When we put on the Spirit led fruit of self control, we are putting our whole body under His direction, including our tongue. Notice the words that accompany the example of the horse in verse 3. The horse "obeys" and is "guided." Here, the example is of a productive, work-enabling horse. The bit, or tongue, is completely controlled by the driver, the Holy Spirit. The horse not only allows the driver to direct the bit, but his whole body as well. In this example, God's purpose is obeyed and the words spoken help to do God's will.
In verse 4, our tongue is compared to the rudder on a ship. It is a small, powerful tool that directs the whole vessel. Once again, it is driven by the pilot (Holy Spirit) to go in the direction the Spirit wills and intends, but, in this example, there are forces introduced that are working against the Spirit. The strong, powerful winds also move the ship. The winds do not have an organized, productive course, but they are haphazard and unpredictable. These are much like our emotions and fleshly, sinful impulses. Here, we are allowing sin to interrupt our course and not obey God's will for us in speech and deed.
Finally, verse 5 illustrates our tongue as an aimless, destructive, uncontrolled fire that destroys whole forests at a time. Here, there is no director, no course, no productive employ. Instead, only destructive forces reign. This is the tongue of one who does not have the influence or is blocking the influence of the Holy Spirit. God's will is not done, and He is scorned by sinful words and actions.
Clearly, our tongues are small, but powerful forces. Consider the three illustrations. Are you the Spirit led "horse" that obediently and patiently labors for the good of God in your words and deed? Are you the lukewarm ship that sometimes successfully stays on course with the "Captain of the ship" but, at other times, tosses to and fro with the wind and waves of emotion? Rather, are you most like the painful, destructive force of fire, continually eating away at others and destroying them with your careless, boasting and selfish words?
Christian wives, I think most of us sadly identify with the ship. We desire to let God lead our life, direct our course and influence our words and tongue. At many times, we do! However, our sinful flesh sometimes overtakes us like a sudden storm on a rough sea. We find ourselves lashing out at our kids in frustration, grumbling to our friends about a situation in which we are discontent, boasting to someone in a moment of selfish ambition, or slandering someone who has slighted us.
This is unacceptable for daughters of God. We should pursue holiness in our speech. Like the horse, we need to bridle our sinful emotions and impulses with the fruit of self control. We need to utilize the direction of the Holy Spirit and be saturated with the Word of God to influence our attitudes and words. As we die to self, the sinful winds will abate and the Captain of the ship will faithfully steer us through life as we traverse His path for us.
Sisters, our words will look like the command of Ephesians 4:29 as we seek to have our words like the bit of the horse--completely controlled by the Holy Spirit.

"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear."

Encouragement, loving admonishment and Biblical wisdom will cover every word and conversation. There will be no mistaking we are His daughters by the very words we speak! Together, let us bridle our words and give the reigns to our loving and faithful God. Let us confess when we sin in speech and thank Him for the direction and help He has given us in the counsel of the Holy Spirit and the instruction of His word.

1 comment:

  1. Great blog, Chiara! Completely agree with your observation that most of us are the ship. What a great reminder that when we allow ourselves to be tossed about by our emotions and flesh, we go off course and become ineffective in both the work God has called us to do and in our witness to others.