Of all the sins out there, it’s easiest to commit the ones with words.
Ever fired off an angry email and hit “send” without adequate forethought?
Ever thrown a verbal jab at your spouse—an insult aimed to hurt?
Is your parental advice sometimes characterized by put-downs and biting criticism?
The list goes on indefinitely, and they’re ridiculously hard to avoid.
James has a way of hitting us right where we live, and here’s a good passage to meditate on today:
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. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 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. 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 3:2-5).
He’s saying quite clearly that our journey toward spiritual maturity cannot avoid addressing what we say and how we say it.
For some reason we’re tempted to minimize sins of the tongue.
Theft? Violence? Murder?
But what about a little white lie?
A little harmless gossip?
Criticism and negativity?
Well, those aren’t so bad . . . we’re tempted to think.
According to James, though, much of our self-discipline needs to be aimed at our speech.
That would be a good discipline to work on today.
As you meditate on this passage, start thinking before you speak.
Ask God to sanctify your words. Ask him to make sure that what you say can be used to glorify him and encourage others.
Ask him to help you avoid anything that Satan might use to tear others down or hurt your influence.
Sure, we need to avoid the sins of the flesh, but James is suggesting that we won’t find true spiritual maturity until we learn to control what we say.