If you don’t want to know the plain-spoken truth, skip the Book of James! In the 3rd chapter of his brief book, James gives us a spiritual-punch-in-the-mouth. Starting with verse 2, James speaks straightforwardly, “For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to rein in the whole body as well.” Your mouth is one of your biggest problems. I believe this includes what you say to yourself (self-talk) as well as what you say to others. Self-talk dictates your feelings, and your feelings are acted out in what you say and do. Your self-talk impacts your relationship with God. Let me assure you that self-talk goes on all day long whether you recognize it or not. What you say out loud determines your relationship with others. Control your tongue and James says you can be “a perfect man.” James uses the following three metaphors in chapter 3.
Horses are animals of great strength and can be frightful to control. James 3:3 tells us a little secret, “Now if we put the bits into the horses’ mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their whole body as well.” Control the mouth and you can control the “whole body.” We all know tons of so-called powerful people who constantly spit out venom creating broken relationships in their wake. Others of us speak our toxic words to ourselves which stalemates our capabilities and intentions disappointing those around us.
James 3:4 uses a small rudder on a ship for the 2nd metaphor. “Look at the ships too: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are nevertheless directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot determines.” A huge ship without a rudder to guide it is worthless. Yet, the pilot can determine the precise direction in huge storms by the proper placement of the rudder. In the storms of life, what happens to your tongue? Pressure often unleashes violent mouths in some of us and paralyzes others. In both cases, be obedient to God’s word and set the course whether it feels counterintuitive or not. To some of us, it may say to shut up. To others of us, it may say be to be bold.
James 3:5&6 gives us the 3rd metaphor during perceived fiery situations. “See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of unrighteousness; the tongue is set among our body’s parts as that which defiles the whole body and sets on fire the course of our life and is set on fire by hell.” Flaming, violent words are caustic and have detrimental even devastating effects on the lives of those around you. STOP, DROP, AND ROLL, your out-of-control words are setting blazing toxic, emotional fires in the lives of precious people. In others of us, we set ourselves on fire with our toxic self-talk.
James 3:8 wraps this discussion up for us, “no one among mankind can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” You cannot control it on your own. Word of God is the bit, the rudder and flame repellant. Meditate on (absorb) it and memorize it allowing God to change your mindset. Psalm 119:11 says, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” including sins of the tongue.