Rudders and Bridles

Thursday, Feb. 25                                                      

James was a very practical man.  He makes doctrinal truths pertinent in our daily lives.  And he is brutally blunt.  He talks about our speech in chapter three.  He starts with teachers—and, as usual, is blunt.  “Not many of you should presume to be teachers.”  Then he explains why.  Teachers will be judged “more strictly.”  He picks out teachers because teachers use speech to get across truths.  The rest of this passage (3:1-12) is a strong and direct message about the evil that erupts from the tongue.  After admitting that we all stumble (v. 2), he proceeds to show how powerful the tongue is.  It is like a spark that sets a forest on fire (v. 5).  It can corrupt the whole body (v. 6).  The tongue, though small, is like a rudder that controls a large ship.  The tongue needs a bridle to keep it under control.  All kinds of animals can be tamed, but not the tongue.  “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.”  And then he concludes with a rather mild “tongue in cheek” statement:  “My brother, this should not be.”   This is a rather dismal picture.  Who would want to be a teacher after all this?  But we are all teachers.  We teach by our actions and by our words.  This passage expresses the seriousness of yesterday’s blog.  James’ following advice is germane here.  He talks about understanding and wisdom.  And he talks about living the life—“deeds done in humility.”  I’m reminded of his words back in 1:5:  “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all . . .”  You may not need help on this, but if you do, you know where to go.  Don’t come to me;  I’m on the needy side of this.

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