Even before I read James 1 this morning as part of my devotional exercises, I had been thinking about an aspect of my life that I really need to bring under control: my tongue. For whatever reason (nature or nurture, or both) my habit is to tease people I care about. The problem is that sometimes I can say things to people in a teasing manner that end up hurting or annoying them. The irony is that I hate people who do this. I don’t want to be that guy—that smart-alecky, insensitive jerk—who routinely says things in a joking manner that hurts people’s feelings. I hate that guy, and I am that guy! Uh, oh! Not good.

Then, as I’m reading James 1 this morning I run across verse 26:

If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. (James 1:26)

James evidently had issues with the way some of his readers were using their tongues. Later on in the same letter he wrote a mini-essay of sorts about the need for Christ’s followers to get a grip here:

We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check. 3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. 7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, 8 but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. (James 3:2-10)

Having taught the Book of James before in a church setting I’m aware of how influenced James was not only by Jesus’ teachings, but also the Book of Proverbs. That Old Testament collection of wisdom sayings presents us with many exhortations to tame our tongues. Here are just a few:

When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise. (Proverbs 10:19)

The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom, but a perverse tongue will be cut out. (Proverbs 10:31)

A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue. (Proverbs 11:12)

He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity. (Proverbs 21:23)

As a north wind brings rain, so a sly tongue brings angry looks. (Proverbs 25:23)

There’s one other passage from the Book of Proverbs that pierces my own heart in an especially precise manner today:

Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. (Proverbs 12:18)

Again, how ironic that someone who spends his days endeavoring to use his tongue to impart wisdom and bring healing to people, can sometimes also use it in a way that hurts and wounds!

I’m sorry if this particular posting seems to be nothing more than an expression of some self-loathing I’m dealing with today. Then again, isn’t it true that one of the purposes of a writing a blog is to allow interested readers into your head? Well, there you go! This is what’s in my head today as a result of reading James 1:26 during my devotional time, and having the Holy Spirit bring me up short in the process. And since James 1:22-25 exhorts us to be doers of the word rather than mere hearers (and readers) of it, I’m willing to acknowlege today my need God’s help when it comes to taming my tongue. (See James 4:6, 10.)

How about you? Might you also need some empowering grace from God in this regard?

Or, maybe your issue is being critical of other people’s blog postings!

There I go again.

Something to think about.