Controlling the Tongue

from the James reading plan

James 3:1-12, Genesis 1:26-27, Psalm 12, Matthew 12:36-37

James brings up one thing we all do every day of our lives: communicate. Whether we are texting friends, talking with family, or updating social media, we are always communicating and we’re doing it all under the reign of Christ.

Many of us believe Jesus is Lord over our lives, but do we see His gracious reign over our tongues, our words, our sentences, and paragraphs? Do we post verses in the morning and then speak unkind comments in the afternoon? How often have we sung praises to our great God and Savior and then turned around and gossiped or slandered someone made in God’s image?

The tongue is a tiny muscle, hardly noticeable, rigged with two cages—teeth and lips—and yet it still gets out of control. Brothers, Jesus cares about our speech.

Typically, men love completing tasks. We finish a project at work, mow the grass, or grill the perfect steak, and we enjoy a sense of accomplishment. Well, James looks right at us and says, “Guys, here’s one task you can’t accomplish. You can’t wrangle in your words. You won’t tame your tongue.”

And to make matters worse, James shows us the warhead nature of our sinful words—they leave havoc, pain, and rubble after they’ve been launched. Is James trying to make us feel powerless and hopeless? In a way, yes—so that we’ll find our power and hope in Christ alone.

How many times have we tried to be like Jesus without Jesus? Too many. James doesn’t want to us to feel conviction about our speech, hang our heads, and try to do better tomorrow on our own. He tells us straight up, “You can’t tame this beast.”

But God can.

Whether you unleash biting sarcasm, inappropriate humor, rage-filled rants and raves, bragging big-deal-ness, or common complaining, there is good news: Jesus specializes in transforming sinners like us. He gives us new lives with Him. He can tame our tongues. He can retrain our speech. His cross, His empty tomb, and His reign in Heaven transform our hearts and our words.

Where the Lord convicts your speech, surrender to Him. Pray “Lord, help me.” He looks toward those who make this humble request. He will draw near.

Written by J. A. Medders

Post Comments (6)

6 thoughts on "Controlling the Tongue"

  1. Andrew Flack says:

    As soon as I saw the title of this I honestly wanted to skip it. Controlling my tongue is one of the hardest struggles I’ve had. I literally cannot imagine what it would be like to have every word you’ve said be repeated in front of you. So much shame and guilt flooded me just at the thought of it. There’s so much that came to my mind and there’s so much that didn’t come but I knew it was there. God I need you to control help me control my tongue. I don’t want to live the life of a curser, liar, double-minded speaker, jerk, or anything along these lines. Help me to change my ways and be a light rather than “part of the crowd”. Personally, I can think of multiple times where I’ve felt either pressured, or angered, or just annoyed into saying things I really shouldn’t. And most of the time, I’m not even conscious of it. James is right, the tongue is a beast that can’t be tamed but us. Only Him through us. God bless my tongue.

  2. Alex says:

    Our tongues are one of the clearest examples of the inner struggle a Christian experiences. As we have been transformed by Christ but still struggle with the sins of the flesh, the tongue unveils its split personality all too clearly.

    Consider how you might sing songs of worship on a Sunday, pray to God on Monday morning as you read His word, speak words to encouragement to a brother or sister… and yet within minutes we can switch to gossiping about someone, complaining about a situation, or making inappropriate comments or jokes.

    It’s a stark image, and one that we’re told we cannot fix! ‘No human can tame the tongue’ v8.

    We’re all guilty of this, maybe some of us know it more than others, but we’re all in the same boat. God is the only one who can change the evil that we spit with our mouths, so we need to pray for each other, and challenge each other when we notice it happening.

    The fellowship of this group is a gift from God, not our own intuition. And we should use it to challenge and uplift each other, all done in love.

    So if you catch me complaining, gossiping about someone, making inappropriate comments or laughing at inappropriate jokes, tell me! I’ll do my best not to be defensive, although I’m sure my sinful pride will show it’s ugly colours too!

  3. Enjuju says:

    For people who are feelers, it is often easy to say the words out of emotional feeling.
    That however is a dangerous situation to be in.

  4. Isaiah says:

    I often do not think enough about my speech. I do when things such as mean jokes or cuss words make their way from my tongue. But in things like gossip, slander, times when I speak out of line, etc., I hardly ever find myself leaning into the direction of Jesus. That is my desire as a Christ-follower isn’t it-to be more like Jesus? Well then why don’t I take my words into consideration when thinking about that? I’m so thankful for passages like these to show me that I have no power and that I am so weak. It is incredible that I serve a God who wants to help me and carry me through areas that I can’t walk through myself. Praying for conviction in my words and guidance from the Holy Spirit.

    God, please help my tongue glorify your name.

  5. Justin Lowery says:

    I find in these verses convicting reminders in a couple of different areas: firstly, I feel we live right now in a time where internet comments, especially on Facebook and YouTube, have fallen to a record low as a place where tongues are unleashed to bring fire from hell to fellow humans on the other side of a screen. All manner of vitriol is exchanged, yet most of us wouldn’t feel convicted about typing words on a keyboard. We’d type things we’d never say to a person’s face. These things aught not so to be. And secondly, I feel the conviction about words spoken in private behind closed doors to a spouse or significant other. Whether it’s the gossip or criticism of others that we feel fine sharing with them, or the bitter words exchanged during a heated moment of anger or frustration that wound the spirit for a lifetime, words spoken in private to a loved one aught to be some of our best and most loving, not our worst and least. May we speak words of love to those we interact with – to both our closest loved ones and our most distant acquaintances and total strangers.

  6. Kevin says:

    What a perfect passage for what we are trying to do now. Just like any sin, we can’t get over it alone and without God. But with him, we can thrive and tame the muscle that is so controlling in our lives. God’s got our back, he just wants us to want that too. I also like how it talks about teachers stumbling over their words. I was at church yesterday and didn’t think the sermon was super accurate or well thought out, but we judge teachers with a higher judgement. They SHOULD slip up every now and then because if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be human. God’s grace is good, and we need to push into that. Let’s stop the cussing with God on our side. 💪🏼

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