Speaking to the Soul – August 26

Control your tongue

If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. James 1:26

James was deeply concerned about people who were phoney. They did religious things and made a good first impression but, in fact, their faith did nothing to affect their actions. And he was famously concerned about the abuse of the tongue.

Later in this letter he has much more to say on the subject, but here he simply identifies the importance of controlling what we say. I am sure he was thinking of people who created problems by spreading gossip, speaking coarsely or being rude and offensive. He wanted such people to know that, if they thought they were truly religious, they were just fooling themselves. Their religion wasn’t worth anything.

So how do we learn to control our tongues? It may well be that you would never think of sharing gossip or speaking rudely, but we all have work to do to take greater control over what we say. However loving and wise our words might be, we could all speak more lovingly and wisely. Step one is to pray that this will happen.

The psalmist prayed: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14). Step two is to learn to listen much more. There is a wise proverb which says: “Hear twice before you speak once.” Most of the foolish things we say are caused by the fact that we haven’t listened more fully. Step three is learn to value silence. Pythagoras, the famous Greek philosopher, once advised: “Either be silent, or speak words that are better than silence.”

Words are so important. All of us have much to learn from James’ teaching on this important topic. Surely none of us wants to be foolish or have a faith which is worthless.

In what ways could you do more to control your tongue?

Lord God, please forgive me for those times when I have said things that have caused hurt. Help me to become increasingly wise in the way that I speak. Amen