Speaking blessings or speaking curses? It’s up to us. James’ discussion on the tongue is frightening and hopeful – giving us a vivid warning and then assuring us that we can produce the fruit of our inner source. He starts with a short warning to teachers about being judged more strictly, that we all stumble, and then brings in the subject of our tongues.
“Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 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.
When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 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. 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. 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 one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” James 3:1-12 NIV
No Human Being Can Tame the Tongue
All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 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,
The Truth About Our Tongues
One of the wonderful things about the book of James is that he covers everything from faith to your tongue! This time, he goes into a short warning about the tongue. The thing I find interesting about it is that James really does not offer any solution! He just seems to pause and reflect on the tongue, observing that “this should not be.” Where most of James’ statements offer a positive solution, this one does not. He has been exhorting and encouraging and then comes the tongue. Even if I took you to the next verse to find some hope about the tongue, it wouldn’t be there because James switches to the subject of wisdom. I read multiple commentaries and most agreed that this is a rather baffling passage.
All of the Commentators that we must learn to control our tongues. However, I find the last few sentences to be very interesting. James diverts from his negative, and, well justified, view of the tongue and talks about being true to what you are. Salt water and fresh water can’t flow from the same stream. A fig tree can’t bear olives and a grapevine can’t bear figs.
Are We Reflecting the Jesus Inside?
Perhaps James is hinting at something here. If we are Christ’s and we are wholly immersed in Him, how would this change our speech?
“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Luke 6:45 NIV
Here, Jesus is saying that our words (what our mouth speaks), or our tongues, speak what the heart is full of. So, if figs are popping out of the branch, this is not a grapevine! Our words reveal who we are and whose we are.
Consider these other verses on the tongue and our words:
“May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14 NIV
“With their mouths the godless destroy their neighbors, but through knowledge the righteous escape.” Proverbs 11:9 NIV
“The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.” Proverbs 15:4 NIV
“Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Proverbs16:24 NIV
Speak Refreshing Words
“Wise words are like deep waters; wisdom flows from the wise like a bubbling brook.” Proverbs 18:4 NLT
“From the fruit of their mouth a person’s stomach is filled; with the harvest of their lips they are satisfied. The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Proverbs 18:20-21 NIV
“Like a club or a sword or a sharp arrow is one who gives false testimony against a neighbor.” Proverbs 25:18 NIV
Don’t Be Careless in Your Speech
“But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-7 NASB
“What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” Matthew 15:11 NIV
“For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Romans 10:10 NIV
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29 NIV
Keep a Rein On Your Tongue
“Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.” James 1:26 NIV
“Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. 1 Peter 3:10 NIV
There is power in the tongue. It can set your life on fire and roll through your life.
“And so the tongue is a small part of the body yet it carries great power Just think of how a small flame can set a huge forest ablaze. 6 And the tongue is a fire! It can be compared to the sum total of wickedness( a world of wrongdoing) and is the most dangerous part of our human body. It corrupts the entire body(the body of believers) and is a hellish flame It releases a fire that can burn throughout the course of human existence.(The Aramaic can be translated “a fire that passes through successive generations, rolling on like wheels.)” James 3:5-6 TPT
This should be a frightening passage for each one of us. James is painting a very vivid picture for us. But then, as I said, he switches and points out that we produce what we are. So, if we are His, our tongue should be producing good fruit. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. James also pointed out in Chapter 1, that we need to keep a tight rein on our tongues or our religion is worthless!
Speak Blessings and Life
Whatever I am connected to inwardly, will come out of my mouth – my tongue will produce the fruit from the inner source. Then, the fruit of my tongue will be evident around me. I will be bringing life or death to those around me. My words will be refreshing or harmful.
We do have the ability to speak blessing or cursing out of the same mouth, but it should not be that way! We can bless God or curse mankind and it should not be that way.
Our Tongues Can Produce Blessings
For me, the lesson from this is that our tongues should be producing blessings. We can speak blessings on ourselves and others. What is a blessing? Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary defines it this way,
“God’s intention and desire to bless humanity is a central focus of his covenant relationships. For this reason, the concept of blessing pervades the biblical record. Two distinct ideas are present. First, a blessing was a public declaration of a favored status with God. Second, the blessing endowed power for prosperity and success. In all cases, the blessing served as a guide and motivation to pursue a course of life within the blessing.”
Speak God’s Truth
The New Testament blessing refers more to God’s favor. In the Old Testament, blessings were spoken over individuals and, as said above, people were motivated to pursue a course of life within that blessing. When I refer to speaking blessings, I am not talking about some twisted sort of ‘positive confession.’ I want a Cadillac and so I am going to say I have one.
You Can Speak the Truth and Still Maintain Your Faith and Trust
I had cancer. When I had cancer, I said I had cancer. I knew I was not going to die from cancer. When I was sick, I said I was sick. I don’t believe that God expects us to lie. Yet, did I believe that God was going to work all things together for my good? I certainly did and He certainly did, but I went through some tough things to get here.
I hesitate to say that I am blessed to be cancer free – and here is why. At the time I was having my first surgery, I had a wonderful Christian friend who was diagnosed with the same type of cancer. Three months later she died. So, was she cursed and I was blessed? Absolutely not. We simply had different paths and God took her home ahead of me. I am not ‘more blessed’ because I survived. When I say, I was blessed, I simply mean that for some reason God kept me here for a while longer.
We Are Blessed Because Jesus Died For Us
I wish there was a different way to express ‘blessing’, that did not sound as if I was God’s favorite so He blessed me and let my friend die. It’s not luck or karma. It is just the course of life God had for each of us. I am blessed but not because I am cancer-free. I am blessed because Jesus died for me.
Proclaim the Word
When I talk about speaking blessings, I don’t mean proclaiming anything other than God’s word. I also do not meant that we should come across as if we are better than the unsaved. We are not. Jesus shed is still there for them to appropriate. I fully believe God could have healed my friend. He didn’t. I trust that He knows what is best and I do not. What happened does not decrease my faith or trust in Him at all. Being blessed is not a badge of honor.
Jesus said that the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted for righteousness sake are all blessed! It’s a pretty mixed group of people and they are all blessed. So speaking blessings over yourself simply means to speak the Word, praise, worship, and give thanks.
Training the Tongue
Since your tongue has the power to set the course of your life, it only makes sense that you might want to make sure it is speaking in line with God’s word. You can train it to do that by purposefully, deliberately, and regularly speaking the Word of God out loud to yourself. As a result, your conversations with others will eventually be in line with God’s words because that is what is inside of you – what’s inside sneaks out through your mouth. So, speak blessings, speak the Word, reflect Jesus in your speech. Give thanks, be thankful, speak words of life, worship, pray the Word, and proclaim the Word daily.What's inside (in the heart) will eventually sneak out through the mouth! Click To Tweet
Produce Fruit from the Source Within
In the end, this is what James says – you can’t help but produce fruit from the source within. If that source is Jesus, His Word, and the Holy Spirit then your tongue will direct your life in the direction of God’s will for your life! Thanksgiving is coming soon so start now – start giving thanks and blessing God today and then – don’t stop!
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If this is you are new to this Study, you can start from the beginning: Lesson 1 Book of James – Introduction