Be careful little mouth what you speak
So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! (Jas 3:5)
We all remember the song we learned or taught to kids in Sunday School. “oh be careful little hands what you do” and one of those verses says “Oh, be careful little mouth, what you say!” This verse may well have been inspired by this section in James!
So James has just explained how the small rudder or small bridle is able to control such force of strength in the horse or the wind, allowing the driver to go in the direction that he wants to go. I think it would be worth putting out the thought that we are all heading in some direction. It could be Heaven, it could be Hell or it could be ‘in circles’. (which is the same thing as NOT heading toward Heaven). James says the tongue is a big part of that direction.
It is small and, really, it is. While other parts of our body are easily seen, the tongue hides away. Unless one opens his mouth, it doesn’t say anything. However, it can say so many things and as James points out, it boasts of great things. I understand this use of the word ‘tongue’ to refer to what we say, how we speak, and really that all gets back to our heart because the mouth speaks what is in the heart. (Mt 15:18) James wants to warn them of the trouble you get into by boasting. Prov 21:23 says “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble”
Great boasters of the Bible would include Lamech (Gen 4), Goliath (I sam 17), Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 6), Jezebel (I kings 19), Haman (Esther), Korah (Num 16) and who can forget the little horn of Daniel 7 or Rev 13? Indeed, we can point to sinners and rebellious ones who turn their backs on God, boasting in their own abilities but what about those other great boasters!
Peter (Mt 26:33), Samson (Judges 16:20), Jephthah (Judges 11:30), and Moses (Num 20:10) represent the other side of the equation, using their mouth to promise things or say things that they had no ability to fulfill. These, who would be followers of God and were men of faith, (all of them are mentioned in Hebrews 11-the faith all of fame) yet their tongue got them into trouble and brought misery into their life. Moses, in particular, was denied entrance into the promised land. Ouch!
“I am a great teacher” some may be tempted to say. Others boast in those who they follow. (I cor 1) Some boast in the future (James will talk about his later) saying “I will be profitable”. Some boasted that they had faith (James 2:18) All of these things are vanity and puffing up your own self.
Boasting in the things which you say you have, or which you say you can do, or will do, or even did do is truly a vanity. James has already said in Chapter one that the poor should boast in their exaltation (not that it is of themselves but of the Lord) and the rich should boast in their humiliation (because only the humble rich man will ever see Heaven. Knowing that your riches don’t count is a big step). And Paul exemplifies this principle of not boasting in vain things when he says that he forgets what is behind and presses forward, being too busy reaching the prize in Jesus to boast of his own accomplishments.
In applying this, we can once again go back to chapter one and this time, verse 19 “let a man be quick to hear and slow to speak…”
Posted on December 21, 2011, in Christianity, Faith, self control, tongue and tagged bridle your tongue, christianity, commentary on James, James, slow to speak, unbridled tongue. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.