1 I said, “I will guard my ways, Lest I sin with my tongue; I will restrain my mouth with a muzzle, while the wicked are before me.” 2 I was mute with silence, I held my peace even from good; And my sorrow was stirred up. 3 My heart was hot within me; While I was musing, the fire burned. Then I spoke with my tongue… (Psalm 39:1–3, NKJV).”
Measuring our words with heavenly wisdom guided by God’s truth will keep us from sinning with our tongues (Jas. 3:1-18). The irreverent words and ungodly deeds of the wicked can influence us to speak rashly. Even Moses fell before this temptation when Israel strove against God: “They angered Him also at the waters of strife, So that it went ill with Moses on account of them; Because they rebelled against His Spirit, So that he spoke rashly with his lips” (Ps. 106:32-33). James said to be “slow to speak, slow to wrath” as a hedge against unrighteousness (James 1:19-20). Doing this does not mean we are unaffected when confronted by wicked people. Sorrow stirred within David, and his heart was enflamed as he meditated on the evil before him. Like Jeremiah, God’s truth burned within David, and he would speak (Jer. 20:9; Ps. 39:3). But he measured his response with prayerful words of praise and prayer (Ps. 39:3-13). Instead of being provoked to sin with your tongue when evil people press upon you, hold your peace until you can respond with words of truth and the meekness of wisdom that honors God and pursues peace (James 3:2, 8-13, 18; Heb. 12:14).
Whatever the Lord pleases He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deep places” (Psalm 135:6, NKJV).
“God is in control.” We hear that a lot, but what does that mean? The Scriptures help us understand God’s control over the world. (1) God’s sovereign will prevails on earth (Psa. 135:6; Dan. 4:34-35). “He rules and works according to His eternal purpose even through events that seem to contradict or oppose His rule” (Holman, 1523). (2) God did not create the world and then walk away from it. The false theology that only nature’s laws operate in this world is called Deism. It rejects God’s interaction with His creation whether by revelation, by miracles, or by answering prayers (Eph. 3:3-5; Heb. 2:4; Matt. 7:7-11; Acts 14:17). (3) God does not control every event in your life. Free will means we can choose between good and evil, and our choices have consequences (Deut. 30:19; Gal. 6:7-8). Conversely, fatalism is the “doctrine that events are fixed in advance so that human beings are powerless to change them” (Merriam-Webster). Calvinism’s doctrine of predestination is false since God gave us free will (Josh. 24:15). (4) God’s plan for us is that we fear Him and keep His commandments (Eccl. 12:13). His will and purposes prevail in heaven and earth, and human redemption in Christ is the centerpiece (Rom. 8:28-30). Through the gospel, God is calling us to believe and obey Him to be saved and walk with Him in life and eternity (Mark 16:15-16; 1 John 1:5-10; Matt. 7:21-23).
2 For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. 3 Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. (James 3:2–3, NKJV)
The mighty steed obeys the bridle and bit. It is impressive to see such a powerful animal controlled and steered by such a small object. But, one must be skilled in using the bridle and bit to prevent the horse from stumbling (or even running wild). “Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things” (Jas. 3:5). The analogy calls on us to control our words and thereby direct our conduct so that we do not stumble. Self-control (heart control) is at the core of tongue control (Matt. 12:34-35). Controlling our words requires controlling our emotions. In the heat of the moment, our words can come from anger, bitterness, spite, etc. and cause us to stumble into more sin (in addition to the sinful attitudes the words express). Sometimes the best thing we can say is nothing at all (Prov. 29:11). We can avoid allowing our tongue to steer us into trouble and stumbling by refusing to be hasty with our words (Prov. 29:20). By controlling our emotions, we will have time to think before we speak. That alone can keep us out of trouble. Therein lies a mark of maturity (the “perfect,” complete person). Remember, “let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (Jas. 1:19, ESV).
“While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease.” (Genesis 8:22, NKJV)
Following the worldwide flood, God made this promise to Noah and us, his descendants. It gives us sufficient assurance that climate change will not destroy the world. Weather cycles are a constant reality of God’s continuing care of the planet He created (Eccl. 1:3-7). Climate changes over time – that is an observable fact. While we can affect it, we do not control it. Yes indeed, we are to be good stewards of the earth, since God made us to have dominion over the works of His hands (Psa. 8:6-8). When people refuse to acknowledge the Creator, their respect for His creation also falters. We should be respectful of God’s earth. Let us be thankful to God for the rain and fruitful seasons He gives to sustain our lives, which also testify to His presence and good will toward us (Acts 14:17). We ought to respect the earth, not as our mother, but because our Creator blessed us with it. We answer to Him as we live on His earth. Let us take care of its resources and gratefully honor God who gave us “dominion over the works of (His) hands” (Psa. 8:6).
He who has a deceitful heart finds no good, and he who has a perverse tongue falls into evil. (Proverbs 17:20, NKJV)
The heart and the tongue are connected. Jesus said, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things” (Matthew 12:35). In today’s verse, the deceitful heart (“crooked heart,” ESV) finds nothing good in others. Truly, “to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure” (Titus 1:15). Comparisons, complaints and disputes pour out of the mouth of the person whose heart is crooked and deceitful. As God’s children we are to “do all things without complaining and disputing” (Philippians 2:14). One way to see good in others instead of falling into contentiousness is to adorn our hearts with honesty, truth and love (Ephesians 4:25, 15). Unrestrained hearts unleash verbal grenades that maim and kill relationships and souls. We must constantly remember that tongue control begins with heart control (James 3:2, 8).
7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. 8 But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” (James 3:7–8, NKJV)
By his intellect, cunning and power, man has subdued beast and fowl, reptiles and sea creatures. Fulfilling God’s creative design, human beings “have dominion” over every living creature, subduing it to our will and purposes (Gen. 1:26, 28). Even so, the lion-tamer does not turn his back on the lion, but respects its prowess and power. To emphasis the constant, consistent oversight of our tongues, James says “no man can tame the tongue.” We must continually monitor our tongues in order to rule over the evil it would otherwise unleash. Like the asp, whose venom awaits injection into its victim, the tongue’s poison is potent, poised to inflict its deadly affects upon others. Its poison takes different forms, all of which are evil: Profanity, gossip, tale bearing, backbiting, slander and lies to name a few (Psa. 58:3-5). Control your tongue by diligently guarding your heart. Don’t turn your back on your tongue; it needs constant surveillance.
1 My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. 2 For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. (James 3:1–2, NKJV)
The one who uses his tongue must learn to master it instead of being mastered by it. Teachers, for example, will be called into judgment for their words. To instruct others, the teacher must control the tongue in order to impart what is useful, pertinent, practical and timely for the students. If the teacher stumbles in word, he may well deconstruct a proper knowledge of the Lord instead of constructing that knowledge. Since we all use words, whether we are a teacher or not, we will all be judged for the words we speak. Jesus said, “But I say to you that for every idle words men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matt. 12:36-37). A mark of spiritual maturity is controlling our words. Speak what is good and useful, not what is harmful to others – and yourself. Remember: “The wicked is ensnared by the transgression of his lips, but the righteous will come through trouble” (Prov. 12:13).