Omar N. Bradley aka Brad, was a highly distinguished senior officer of the United States Army who saw distinguished service in North Africa and Western Europe during World War 11, and later became General of the Army.
He wrote the following on his retirement:-
“I am convinced that the best service a retired general can perform is to turn in his tongue along with his suit and to mothball his opinions”
I reckon Brad had it pretty much nailed when he said that – especially in the light of reading James 3. James has some pretty straight forward, right between eyes, things to say to us about holding our tongues and controlling what we say, when to say and even how to say!
Just how amazing is it that mankind can control a host of astounding technical problems and even microscopic organisms and have mastered the art of controlling even the most tiniest cells of the body to react to our will. Even wild animals have been brought under control. In Nigeria for example, some men can even control wild hyenas to obey their commands and yet….
James 3 tells us that no one can control the tongue. The tongue will never and can never be totally ‘tamed’ – in this life anyway.
James also tells us that the tongue “is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” – WOW! if that’s not laying it on the line – I don’t know what is?
I can vouch for everything James is saying. Just when you think you are walking in faith and in the spirit of God, WHAM!! some little thing happens and you lose it or you find yourself saying something to or about someone and the poison starts dripping!
We are powerless, just like James tells us, to control our tongues. James uses the illustration of a ship to get his point across. How large a vessel and how strong the winds and gales, yet they are controlled by such a small rudder in comparison to their bulk.
Another comparison he uses is the horse – such a small bit in it’s mouth can make the whole animal obey the will of the rider. So it is with our tongues. Such a small part of the body but how big it boasts and just how hypocritical it can be.
One minute we are all sugar and spice and everything nice and then we can turn and be completely the opposite, cursing and tearing down reputations and characters. James tells us in verse 10 that this should not be.
Praise God that James does not leave us here but goes on to tells us about wisdom – he explains that there are two types of wisdom – ‘earthly’ wisdom and ‘heavenly’ wisdom.
‘Earthly’ wisdom tells us to ‘go for it’ no matter the cost – if someone wrongs you, tell them! – If you have to hide the truth to better yourself then do it – you are the creator of your own destiny – you are the one that can make yourself grow better and better. If people around don’t like what you are saying or how you are acting, then they are ones who will have to change.
Such ‘wisdom’ James tells us, does not come from heaven but is of the devil. Selfish ambition, waking over others, acting out of envy or jealousy, putting yourself above everyone and saying just what you want when you want to say it, is exactly where we will find “every kind of disorder and every evil practice.”
All this and more from our tongue – no wonder James says it can never be fully tamed.
But then James goes on to tell us the ‘other’ type of wisdom and praise God he does and doesn’t leave us to ourselves here.
“Heavenly” wisdom of course comes from a close encounter and personal walking with our God who created us. As believers grow in grace and love, we can use our tongues to build up and bless others rather than to curse and tear them down.
In the workplace we can be supportive, helpful and encouraging, putting others first and making ourselves the lesser. James tells us that this WISDOM comes from God. It is ‘pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” We are told to be ‘peace-makers – sowing in peace and raising a harvest of righteousness.”
Sounds absolutely nothing like the what the world tells us today. The tongue is completely out of control and ruling our falling world. The tongue displaying the state of human hearts. We alone can and never will control the tongue. ONLY God and his spirit living in us can we achieve the goal of controlling our tongue.
Our speech has such great potential for good. By learning of Jesus, we can use our words wisely by focussing more and more on the inner life of Christ in us and less and less on the tongue itself. In other words focussing more of the tongues source than on it’s outflow.
Will that eventually control our temper and our tongue? Maybe not – we all fail and fall but the amazing truth is that God knows all about our frailties and failures and if we are truly repentant then we can certainly move on and press on with Him.
So we can have the choice of two types of wisdom here – ‘earthly’ wisdom telling us to ‘go for it’ no matter the cost, or ‘heavenly’ wisdom where our tongues are controlled by He who created us characterised by peace, love, sincerity and consideration.
So what are we left with here? What does your tongue reveal about the state of your heart? We can’t control our tongues on our own – Pure speech only comes from the Pure Saviour and He and He alone can keep working in our lives to overthrow the sometimes evil thoughts and words that emanate from our frail lives.
Give our hearts and lives to Jesus right here right now along with our tongues – repent of those times when our tongues have got the better of us and we have fallen. Put it right with those we have hurt or damaged along the way – hard to do but vital to keep walking with Jesus.
God bless you this week as you hand your speech, thoughts and motives to the only one who can control our tongues and give us Heavenly wisdom.
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