Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2 We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check. 3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of ones life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. 7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in Gods likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. James 3:1-12 (New International Version).
In this chapter, James addresses one of the most challenging aspects of being Christlike: controlling what we say. As James declares, the tongue is one of the most powerful parts of the body, able to accomplish both great good and tremendous evil.
Our ability to tame it can reflect our commitment to live honestlyor, as Maria found out, not to do so. Maria knew that lying was wrong, but there were circumstances in her life that her parents simply wouldn’t understand. She had dropped all of her classes the previous semester because a close friend had been suicidal and needed her help. Now, at the end of another semester, she hadn’t turned in the necessary work, and her “incompletes” would soon show up as failing grades on her transcript. Perhaps worst of all, her parents didn’t know about any of it.
So what did Maria do? She intercepted the transcript from the school and lied about her grades to her parents. After all, she assured herself, her professors had said they would still allow her to complete the courses. Everything would work out for the best in the long run. Her parents didn’t need to know, and she would protect her friend’s secret. Even God would understand that this was a situation in which the truth absolutely needed to be bent.
Maria thought she was in the clear until a couple of months later when she received an anxious phone call from her mom. The college had sent her parents a copy of the transcript. Maria felt deeply ashamed of her deception; she could hardly face her mom and dad the next time she saw them. She wondered how she could have done such a thing. Yet, strangely enough, deep inside she was actually relieved that her secret had finally been exposed. Living a lie had been difficult. From now on, she promised herselfand Godevery word that comes out of my mouth will be an honest one!
Describe a situation in which something you said got you into trouble. Howand whendid you realize that your words had crossed the line?
Are there times when not saying something can bring about regrettable consequences? Give an example from your own life.
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