James continues his discussion on various aspects of living out our Christian faith.
One of the key indicators of how we are progressing in our growth how much like Christ we are becoming is how we use our tongue.
People often quote;
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me
Yet most of us know this is not true, our bones can mend but our hearts and minds remember words said to us even as a small child. We take them in; “Oh you will never be any good” “You are useless/stupid/ugly “(insert yours) and we carry these through to adulthood. Sometimes someone will say something which hurts us and even though they may not have intended to hurt us – it does and we can’t forget. We may be able to forgive them but it is still there lurking in the back of our memories.
James discusses how important it is to keep control of what we say, how an unwise or careless word cannot only damage the recipient but ourselves. Some commentators say that James himself, being a half brother of Jesus was racked with feelings of guilt for some of the things said when Jesus started his ministry (see John 7). We can bless God with our tongue or curse our brothers and sisters, who are made in God’s likeness (v9 so we are effectively cursing God by our action)
Remember that Satan’s main weapon is to deceive us with lies, is is he who tempts us (chapter 1 v 13-15) using words, he is powerless to do anything else so his only weapon is to cause division and guilt though trying to deceive us and as we have already seen in James 1 – we must not be deceived, we must learn to control our tongues (chapter 1 v 26)
I have always loved the scene in the Disney film Bambi, where Thumper the rabbit quotes his father after being rebuked by his mother;
If you can’t say nothing good, then don’t say nothing at all
My own father would often quote;
Engage brain before starting mouth
In other words, choose your words carefully. Sometimes it it better “bite your lip” and say nothing rather than to say something which may cause hurt, anger or disagreement. At least take a few moments to think about what you want to say, there may be a better way of saying it if something really needs to be said. A gentle calm correction rather than and angry response.
So how can we do this? James has a very simple solution – we need Wisdom.
How do we get it? – ASK GOD!!
But if any of you lack wisdom, you should pray to God, who will give it to you; because God gives generously and graciously to all (James 1 v 5)
Solomon pleased God greatly by asking for wisdom over everything else so He blessed him with great wisdom and then everything else on top (2 Chronicles 1)
James goes on to explain in Chapter 3 verses 13 to 18, that there are two types of wisdom; worldly wisdom and heavenly wisdom.
Worldly wisdom is boastful causing jealousy and selfishness.
If in your heart you are jealous, butter and selfish, don’t sin against the truth by boasting of your wisdom. Such wisdom does not come down from heaven; it belongs to the world, it is unspiritual and demonic. Where there is jealousy and selfishness, there is also disorder and every kind of evil. (v 14-16)
We are to demonstrate Godly wisdom by the way that we live as well as what we say;
Are there people among you who are wise and understanding? They are to prove it by their good lives, by their good deeds performed with humility and wisdom (v13)
The wisdom from above is pure first of all; it is also peaceful and friendly; it is full of compassion and produces a harvest of good deeds; it is free from prejudice and hypocrisy. And goodness is the harvest that is produced from the seeds the peacemakers plant in peace (v 17-18
We see that although James may be appearing to ramble and “jump about” in his letter; he is tying it all together.
By gaining Godly wisdom, we are able to control our tongues and use words that plant peace and encourage spiritual growth. We demonstrate the cleansing and purifying work that God is doing in by our good deeds and wise, gentle words (see v 2) This can only flow from a pure spring (heart), bitter words flow from an impure spring (v11)
Paul also discusses this in 1 Corinthians 2 v 6 – 16
I think this can be summed up quite well by verse 13
So then, we do not speak in words taught by human wisdom, but in words taught by the Spirit, as we explain spiritual truths to those who have the spirit.
This does not mean that we walk around using lots of religious language, but that we seek to have the mind of Christ and allow his wisdom and grace to flow though us.
I think all of us could probably do with a bit more wisdom, so lets ask God for it.
Quotes from The Good News Bible