Tiny, But Powerful

Message:  James 3 is a well-known chapter about taming the tongue. I have always read this as a warning against gossip and negativity. While I still feel like that applies, reading through it all in context gave me a different understanding. Verse 1 begins with a warning that not many should become teachers because it comes with a higher standard of judgment. Teaching other people means we are responsible for what we teach and how it affects those that hear it. If we teach misinformation, we are responsible for those who hear it and follow. The tongue articulates the things we believe and is compared to the rudder steering a ship. That’s a fascinating analogy in this particular context because what we believe comes out in what we say and literally steers our direction. The tongue is also compared to a small fire that catches an entire forest on fire. This kind of effect can be for the positive but because of our sinful nature it has the potential to take out an entire forest. The tongue is also compared to a tamed wild animal. It’s rare to tame a wild animal already, but verse 8 says it is even more difficult to tame the tongue. This is where it begins to sound less like teaching and more about negativity, but if I keep teaching in mind I see that it is still very relevant. Our words are described like deadly poison and verse 9 points out that we praise the Lord with it and we also curse men who are made in God’s image with the same tongue. This makes complete sense in the context of gossip and negativity but as I played out the category of teaching I started to realize all of the ways we have used our tongue to try to “educate” other people in what we believe to be true. Right now there are all kinds of debates going on over social media because everyone sees things a bit differently and many are spending their time trying to preach their views and opinions to others. The problem is that our views are not necessarily correct and if we poison others with our incorrect information. In Paul’s letters to the churches he often said he was determined to know nothing except Christ and him crucified. This was a safeguard not only to keep focused but to keep the gospel pure. I have heard my share of bible studies going off topic and I have heard plenty of misapplications and misunderstandings. The truth is, we are all going to make mistakes but we need to stay grounded in the word and in prayer so that the Holy Spirit will guide us into truth that we can teach.

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