James: Day 5

Controlling the Tongue

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Today's Text: James 3:1-12, Genesis 1:26-27, Psalm 12, Matthew 12:36-37

Scripture Reading: James 3:1-12, Genesis 1:26-27, Psalm 12, Matthew 12:36-37

The idea of “controlling the tongue” is not just religious-speak to me. It is not just a heading in my Bible or a topic that generates good, honest conversation at a Bible study. It is one of the most sincere prayers of my heart and one of the darkest manifestations of my sin.

Especially since becoming a mother, I’ve realized my words have the power to give life and hope or to steal them away. I’ll never forget the look in my young daughter’s eyes the first time I tossed sharp, careless words at her like a grenade and saw her wince at the explosion. I surrendered my tongue and its words to the Lord that day, and I’ve surrendered them countless times since.

In chapter 3, James describes the tongue as the epitome of hypocrisy. “With the tongue we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in God’s likeness” (James 3:9). And here’s the kicker: We are all guilty of this—every one of us, in every phase of life.

James does not give us a tidy “how-to” at the end of this passage, no foolproof answer for ending this struggle which takes place in each of us. Instead, he provides one analogy after the other, illustrating the way our words can bring life and direction, or death and destruction.

“So too, though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts great things. Consider how a small fire sets ablaze a large forest” (v. 5).

Our words have more power than we usually care to acknowledge. If we knewreally knewthe weight our words carry in each person who receives them, how would that change what we say? Would the flames of hypocrisy overcome us if we could see the fires we spark?

This forthright passage from James should bring us to our knees. Our struggle to control our tongues and rein in our thoughts should cause us to plead to the Father for wisdom in how to honor Him and build up others with our words. This is just what James encourages us to do in the first chapter of his letter:

“Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God—who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly—and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).

Praise God that He hears us!

Just as grace pours into the darkest parts of our hearts, igniting the hope of the gospel, so does His grace pour over the fires we start with our words. The hope of Jesus and the forgiveness of the Father extend to this place, too. As a woman who’s flung more sparks than I care to admit, I am so incredibly thankful.

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  • I am in this study for this very reason. My tongue. My big mouth. I got lazy and wasn’t reading my bible in the morning. One good hot day running errands and come home to a situation and boom, there goes my tongue a flapping. My brothers are who I want to see Jesus and God only knows who I showed them that day. God’s grace pours. Like a flood His mercy rains. What a blessing. What a blessing that He is here to help me up when I fall, because when I fall it’s always a hard one.
    Thank God for this study!!
    Lord, give me your words will be my prayer before all encounters…God willing. He is making me into the woman He created me to be and at times it is a hot fire!! Thank you Jesus for being the cool breeze when needed.

  • Thank you for all your comments shared I did think that this topic would be a real issue with us ladies. We woman like to talk it’s in our genetic make up. I struggle always With speaking about others i ask myself if this person I spoke about was here would she have been upset? Then I have to repent and I fail again every time. But what I love is that Gods grace covers us. Just like the daily manna we receive our portion for the day we must make this a daily prayer of ours Lord guard my tongue be the God of my speaking Lord infact it must be more then daily prayer but used on every encounter we have. Are we building up with our words ? Lord I fail in this every time please forgive me but as each day we are being transformed into the likeness of you I am changing slowly let this part of my life also be dealt with

  • In the book “Here Goes Nothing” by Kendra Broekhuis, chapter 16 is titled Your Breath Smells Like Gospel. And today’s study and that chapter just gets me thinking are we inhaling the Gospel but not exhaling it onto others? This is such a great reminder that WE ALL share this struggle and yet we are all still loved and forgiven.

  • Brette Bigelow

    Wow…this couldn’t have hit me at a better time…from a girl who is quick to speak out when angry…this is just what I needed!

  • Stephanie

    This couldn’t of hit me at a better time. I struggle with the words that come out of my mouth. For one- I swear like sailor. I’m not sure how or when it started. But ooohh boyyy. I have a mouth on me. And not for any other reason than I am broken and those are the words that come out of my mouth. But so many time for so so longgggg, I have regretted not being more careful not only of saying these “bad words” but what does it say about what is in my heart?? That does not reflect how much Jesus loves me and loves others! And isn’t that what we should be doing with our words?? Lifting people up? Showing them who Jesus is?? I am definitely seeking Gods wisdom on this one because the verses hold true in that no one can take the tongue- except our Lord. It’ll have to take a daily shift in mental focus and in my heart to change this awful habit. Praise Jesus for grace and asking for His wisdom to be given.

  • Well do I feel the hold spirit convicting me right now! I can sometimes be harsh with my words in times of anger. I have been praying and working on being slow to anger. Thinking before I speak, because words stick and they hurt…even if I only speak out of anger. I am gaining patience and trying to reflect the Light that is in me. Thank you for this reading.

  • Sometimes forgiving myself is even harder – for things I’ve said!!! In awe of God’s ways and gentleness.

  • One of my favorite books is Silver Boxes by Florence Littauer. It is based on Ephesians 4:29. She tells us that our words should be gifts to each other, like little silver boxes with bows on top. This was a great reminder for me to speak encouraging words instead of tearing others down.

  • Alexandra Rose

    I once heard on Christian radio that it is better to RESPOND than to REACT. I’m not necessarily a ‘yeller’ (anymore) but I can still throw out some harsh remarks toward my kids AND my husband. It’s definitely something I’ve known I needed to work on and this study today was a HEAVY reminder that I need to be more intentional in bettering my responses towards others. Thankful for SRT and this community!

  • Dora Guardiola

    I have to be more careful of what I say!
    I want my words to
    Touch someone and make them feel joy if even forbthat moment! I want to make a difference in someone’s life.

  • Ephesians 4:29 comes to mind when reading this esp when speaking with my kids. My talk should be lifting and building them up. I’m trying to work on being quick to listen (counting to 5 or even 10 some days when a request has been given, giving them time to process what I am asking them to do. I have been such a yeller this past year. I’d really like to make a change in that. Thank you for this study.

  • I read this on the first day but didn’t mark “read” so today when I was checking out what I have missed I ended back here and how I needed it! It just amazes me how God works. He is so personal. I struggle with speaking lovingly to my family. I don’t know why it’s so easy to be nice to everyone else but so bitter and mean to my husband and daughter. My husband even said something last night about my words and then to read this… I must work on it! I pray God shows me how to love and care for my family. To build them up and not tear them down. I don’t know why I’m so frustrated and angry and resentful with them sometimes. Heal my heart Lord, heal their hearts too.

    • Miranda

      Thank you for admitting this! I actually cried when I read your post which takes a lot. The past week I have been nothing short of terrible to my husband and daughter and have flung some horrible words there way without even realizing why. It makes me feel slightly less horrific knowing I am not alone in this. Thank you!

  • Kasey Summers

    Very convicting. Please put a guard over my mouth Lord.

  • Cassandra Stone

    My heart is so heavy with how easily I speak idle words to my kids. I find myself losing it so quickly lately on my 4 kids and before I know it I’m running to my room in tears and guilt. I’ve been praying lately for God to work in me to bring life to our home. For me to set a tone of peace and love and forgiveness. This is just what I needed today! Thank you Father!

  • This is a great reminder as a mother with 4 little ones running wild this summer. Lol I need to be praying for control over my tongue multiple times a day, and I need to learn to apologize as soon as I know I’ve let my tongue speak evil.

    • Rachel Smart-Gargasz

      I am with you on this! I have three and this will be the prayer of our summer!

    • She Reads Truth

      Praying for you, Emily! Asking the Lord to fill you with grace and patience with your little ones. What a wonderful ministry you have with four sweet children!

      – Stormye

  • I loved going back and reading all of your comments this morning. Such truth – and conviction! I was reminded that my thoughts are words that can bring life or death as well. I may not speak them out loud, but when I think them, I am speaking them to my heart. I am praying for the strength to take those thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ. Also praying for the strength to keep my thoughts from leaking out of my mouth. That has been a real struggle for me lately so this study could not have been more timely. So thankful for a God that always leads me in the right direction – in the way everlasting. Thank you ladies and SRT !

  • Thank you for using The Message version for this study. I’ve never used this version before to study a whole book but just read random passages in The Message version. I’ve been reading the passage on the app and then reading it in my SRT bible to see the two versions side by side.

    “Just as grace pours into the darkest parts of our hearts, igniting the hope of the Gospel, so does His grace pour over the fires we start with our words.” I often sit and wallow in regret over my words. This is a good reminder to come before Him in repentance because His grace is enough!

  • I tend to control my words pretty well (sometimes this can be a fault when God means for me to speak up) but where my issue lies is within my thoughts. Oh my thoughts are dark and harsh against myself and at times against others. If I spoke the thoughts I say to myself about myself aloud, people would cringe. It’s awful really. God often tells me “Please be nice to my daughter.” when I am overly harsh to myself. I hate when I start to judge others in my mind. One day those thoughts will be spoken if I don’t get a handle on it and give this to God.Please Lord, change me. May my thoughts towards myself and others be kind and full of love. May they reflect Christ.

  • As I study James, our church is going through this book too. Today’s passage coincides with the song our church worship released called Tongue Untamed. It is to go along with the message our pastor is preaching on Sunday. Our worship team is writing a song each week to go with the book of James. I must need this reminder of the tongue because it is being thrown at me from multiple sides. Then I had an argument with my middle one and I realize that he has taken some things that I’ve said in not the right way and I feel convicted. I pray that my heart will be open and humble. The song can be found at room519.com (its free)

  • “How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!” James 3:5.

    I have found myself slipping into casual joking with co-workers to be part of the culture/community. But the “casual” talk is often at someone else’s expense in some way or another. Yesterday another co-worker was decidedly cool towards me and this verse immediately came to my mind, and I read this passage from James. Even if her coolness toward me was not because of my words, this incident was a reminder from the Lord, that after taking so much time to build relationships with co-workers on the margins of faith, I could blow it because I’ve gotten used to talking in a worldly, sinful manner…for acceptance by others.

    Is it worth it? No. Holy Spirit, please lead my tongue to bless others and not curse, and to be mindful of the impact of my words, even what is said “in jest”. In Jesus’ mighty name, we pray. Amen.

    • Alexis

      You have convicted me. I run into this a lot, and sadly I engage in this behavior at times too. Knowing it is wrong, yet afraid to stop the conversation for fear of being “uncool” or “needing to lighten up” I take your prayer and pray it for myself. Thank you for this.

    • Sarah Joy

      Gossip draws me so often because I enjoy people and want to join the group. However, a couple “outs” I’ve been using at work have been to ask the question “have you said something to a manager about this? I don’t think it’s me you should tell since I can’t do anything about it.” Other times I have to simply walk away. It’s hard to do, but my words to stop the behavior don’t usually help because I don’t work there all the time. God help me to use my words for good and not for evil.

  • Growing up, I had hurting words slung at me by a parent and others, so slinging them at others has not been something I have done. Though I admit I have sinned and slung hurtful words at them in my thoughts. -I learned in my childhood that the “sticks and stones” cliche’ is absolute nonsense.
    As I have aged, I am suffering with negative and hurtful thoughts about myself; slinging hurtful words at myself out of frustration and anger. I know I’m sinning, I confess, ask forgiveness and mourn my sin of self loathing against my faithful Father and Savior. I pray the Holy Spirit’s voice will become louder until He’s helped me to be an overcomer. Praise God that in His faithfulness this leads me straight to Him. But I so want to be an overcomer in this and give God praise for it.
    Thank you for this devotional with James. I’ve taken notes and placed them in my Bible and know God is using this in my journey to healing. So thank you for this series on James! ~ If you could think of me in a prayer, that would be much appreciated.

    • She Reads Truth

      Praying for you Marianne. Asking the Lord to heal you where words have wounded and for you to see yourself as the beautiful daughter you are. Grateful for you and your vulnerability today.

      – Stormye

    • Emily B.

      You can do it! The Spirit in you is greater than your sin nature. God will meet you right where you are. :)

    • JessMC

      Marianne, I pray these scriptures over you now…Ephesians 1:4-14, Ephesians 2: 1-10 and Psalm 139: 1-6, 13-17. I pray that these words from The Word will bring you strength and power to remember whose you are and how much you are worth!

    • Pam

      Marianna, my dear sister in Christ, you are not alone. You and I, by the power of the Holy Spirit will rise above the past being healed daily in the precious blood of Jesus. That no weapon formed against us by loved ones has any power over us, in the strong name of Jesus. And when those thoughts and past memories come, we will take captive every thought and make it obedient unto Jesus. From this day forward we will choose to live as Overcomers and the Light we shine will be Jesus. Amen.

  • Katherine

    Yes I plea to the Lord for wisdom because of this tongue of mine…. I cling to the cross for receiving forgiveness from the sparks I too have flung! At times, I wish I would have said something in a hauty situation… But in bed at night I lay with thankfulness for the quiet spirit the Lord has blessed me with…. Which I learned how to use (the hard way). For I know the Lord loves a gentle and quiet spirit. Most of the time its best not to say anything rather than something in the moment… Thanks be to God for this awesome devo! What a great reminder! This helps me persevere.

  • Diane Huntsman

    “Just as grace pours into the darkest parts of our hearts, igniting the hope of the gospel, so does His grace pour over the fires we start with our words. The hope of Jesus and the forgiveness of the Father extend to this place, too. As a woman who’s flung more sparks than I care to admit, I am so incredibly thankful.”
    Such a great way to end a deep convicting passage and commentary.. I loved this so much.. as women I think most of us relate to the regrets that almost daily leave our lips.. my tongue, which is really evidence of my heart, has tangled me in sin far more times than I want to recall.. slow to speak is the answer my friends.. self control.. a fruit of the Spirit.. oh that we would daily, moment by moment seek His power to season our speech with grace and kindness even when we bring correction to those who need it.. thank you once again SRT for hitting me between the eyes with truth basked in love and in a relatable fashion every single day!! xoxo

  • Alessandra Hurt

    Had a total Aha! Moment during reading this morning. (James 3:9)

  • Alexandria Buttgereit

    This was incredibly convicting. Our every word is counted for and can effect those we might not know listen or care. This maybe a little off, but I’ve really been struggling with the verse about after asking for wisdom. It says “But let him ask in faith with no doubting….for let not that man suppose he will receive anything from the Lord, he is a double minded man, unstable in all his ways.”
    So does this mean when I doubt (which is one of my biggest struggles) I won’t receive wisdom? I’m not sure what this means. How do I not doubt if that is my one struggle? It’s so disheartening.

    • Hello there. I believe this principle applies to everything. Whatever it is we ask God for including wisdom, if we doubt (in asking) then we won’t receive it. We are told to ask, believing and we will receive. So your first step would be to ask God to help you get over your doubts and replace it with faith instead.
      Praying all will be well. God bless.

      • Alexandria Buttgereit

        Thank you Kimone for your words of wisdom. I think I will start making this a daily prayer, it’s not a fun struggle because I am always in need of His wisdom. Thank you so so much, truly.

    • Kristin B

      I struggle with this too, especially lately. I also deal with doubt. I’ve read those verses many times over the years and I always am left with more questions than answers. Whenever I ask God for something, I can’t help but think of both the times he has answered and the times he has not answered. I don’t have a solution for you, but I wanted you to know you aren’t alone in this. I’m right there with you.

      • Alexandria Buttgereit

        Thank you so much Kristin for commenting, I feel so many just somehow “get it” and know how without doubting. I think of both too…and I’ve been hurt when He didn’t answer…maybe it is just answered in a way I don’t yet understand. I will be praying for both of us as well in this struggle then.

    • I pray that God would strengthen your heart in this season of doubting. I think of John the Baptist, who doubted so much during his imprisonment that he sent his own disciples to Jesus to ask if He was truly the one. I love the tenderness of Jesus’ response in Matt 11… “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.” Though doubt is surely not where He wants us to remain, the response was gentle and filled with the reminders of John already knows of the Lord. After all, John recognized the Messiah while still in his Mama’s womb. Somehow, this encourages me when I struggle with doubt. Even more so to read Jesus’ words to the crowds only moments after this incident: “truly I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist.” I’m praying He sends you those reminders of His character and faithfulness. I appreciate your transparency.

      • Alexandria Buttgereit

        Well this reply brought the tears. Thank you so much for sharing this story. I don’t think I’ve really dwelt on it before nor heard it in this light…it just brought my heart lots of comfort. I will go back and read this. Thank you so much Lori for your response and direction to the word and God’s response.

      • Cindybelle

        ❤️

    • I read your comments this morning and I have been praying on them most of the day, I feel that I might have a word for both of us as I struggle with doubt also… Fear not, for God meets us where we are. We are hedged before and behind. Jesus has already overcome the word. I saw an image of a little girl on a climbing wall, her father was standing right behind her telling her that he won’t let her fall. He won’t let us fall. He is a big God and he is bigger than our doubt. He will stand behind us while we climb the wall and even though we are afraid, he’s not going to let us fall… at the end there will be no doubt.

      • Alexis

        Thank you for this! Needed to hear this today :)

      • Alexandria Buttgereit

        Elle, I am just overwhelmed with gratitude that you have prayed for me, and this community that loves and encourages one another. Thank you for your words…I need to rest in knowing He is there not letting us fall. Oh thank you for that image and that despite my fear and doubt I have to rest in truth. I am humbled by all these responses. Thank you Elle and I will pray for you as well.

  • Janis Nelson

    God is faithful and He hears the anguished heart of the truly regretful. He forgives and He helps those who really want to change.

  • I think of what I hold back, filtering and analyzing instead of asking the Holy Spirit for help.

    • JessMC

      This is exactly what I do and I never realized it until I read your words. I put way too much confidence in my own ability to hold my tongue when I should be relying on the Holy Spirit to guide me and speak for me. Thank you for your words!

  • The Lord is so good to speak truth over our lives just where we need it most. This passage really challenged me today. I love the words of Proverbs 16:21, “The wise in heart are called discerning, and pleasant words promote instruction.” Lord, may we be women who are wise in heart and discerning about what we say!

  • So timely as I am entering a weekend of training people in leadership. I have the power to truly build them up and encourage them. The power of the tongue is so real.

  • Such a struggle! I was reminded of the verses “For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” (Matt 12:34) and “But what comes out of the mouth gets its start in the heart. It’s from the heart that we vomit up evil arguments, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, lies, and cussing.” (Matt 15:18-19). Maybe I need to focus less on trying to control my tongue and focus more on looking at the condition of my heart. “Create in me a pure heart, O God!” (Ps 51:10)

    • valerie

      i agree 100%!

    • Emily B.

      I was reminded of the first verse you shared, as well. I need to remember that my heart needs to reflect the Lord’s, and what I say illustrates that.

    • Cindybelle

      Yes! That’s where it all begins ❤️

  • yes yes yes. I just got back from a Christian conference and I was so surprised with how many people were speaking death. We literally have the power to speak death or life and every word that comes out of our mouth matters! I am choosing to speak LIFE! (prov 18:21)

    This also reminds me of being quick to listen, slow to SPEAK, slow to becoming angry

    http://www.in-due-time.com

  • Caroline Harris

    “…consider how the forest is set ablaze by a small fire. The tongue is a fire…a world of unrighteousness…that pollutes the whole body, sets the course of life on fire…”

    The author of today’s thought was spot on, “…words words can bring life and direction, or death and destruction.” This statement is evident in Genesis 1 when the LORD spoke creation into existence. It is also true when Christ cursed the fig tree in Mark 11: 12-25 with His words–the tree withered! John even calls Christ “The Word” in John 1: 1.

    Words are powerful! The muscle that brings words to life is equally as powerful–and I throw my words around as flippantly as a toddler throws confetti.

    My prayer is to be quick to listen and slow to speak. If my words are not life giving, praising the LORD, or edifying a brother, then I should keep my mouth absolutely glued. The only way this can be accomplished is through prayer, discipline and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

  • I am so convicted by this devotional this morning.

  • churchmouse

    No soft fluffy pillow upon which to rest my head in these verses this morning. Nope. Can’t close my Bible and say “well, that’s not me.” James walks right up and hits me on the head with a two by four. He Is. Not. Kidding. Around. My speech is serious stuff to God. Genesis 1:26-27 pared with the Scriptures from James convicts me this morning. It reminds me that if I truly saw my fellow humans as made in the image of God Himself (God! Himself! In His very likeness!) my speech would be very different. It starts there. My sight. Lord, help me.

  • Crazy how such a small part of the human body can possess so much power. This is another life lesson I’ve had to learn throughout the years and its definitely a reoccurring topic. I’ve asked God many times to cease my tongue in moments when I’ve desperately wanted to explode. It’s a difficult thing to do because we’re so inclined to react and speak… but sometimes the perfect “attack” is speaking words of wisdom. Not only does it help the situation deescalate but it can change a persons perspective for the better. Words have power and we must ask God to guide our tongues to combat ignorance and injustices. We have to remember that they have the power to inspire or to destroy. We’re all guilty of this but we can also be the one person who spoke the right words and changed a life, even if its your own ❤️

    • She Reads Truth

      Very true, Katalina! Thank you for sharing this morning. So grateful for your wisdom and insight.

      – Stormye

  • I have said more hurtful things to others than I care to admit. I am always convicted which causes me to seek immediate forgiveness and offer restitution. But it is almost impossible to make right sometimes because the damage can last a very long time. Therefore one of my most frequently said prayers is this; let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be right in your sight oh God my strength and my redeemer. Let my words give glory to you oh Lord!

  • Guilt over here. In the words category, I am a “more is more” kind of girl. I’ve been told that words are a strength of mine, so then of course a liability, operating in self-reliance apart from the Spirit’s leading. Don’t be fooled, this rudder would like to steer your ship, ALL the ships…

    Makes me wonder at our Jesus. The verse that came to mind is “he has done [and said] all things well.” Not me. Him. Lo and behold, in this passage he uses just two well-placed words to loosen the tongue of a man who had been mute…

    Oh Jesus! Have mercy on me, a sinner. Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth until you alone loosen it, for your glory.

  • Living in coastal Florida, we are blessed to have beautiful scenes of the sea almost anywhere we drive. I love the portion of James 3:12 that says “neither can a salty pond yield fresh water.” This was such a convicting challenge to me today: my words flow from my heart! May I be busy today meditating on the One who can best protect and guard my heart so that the words that flow from it are pure and pleasant, like a sunset at the beach.

  • I have a verse from Proverbs taped to the shelf where I keep my coffee mugs — “Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam, so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.” Prov 17:14. It seems that each morning as I reach for a coffee mug, I am tempted to spat with someone in my household (likely because I haven’t yet had my coffee!) and this verse has convicted me soooooooo many times. I see it so often in litigation too. Someone says the wrong words to someone else and they end up in a very expensive lawsuit because they are angry about each other’s words. The tongue is the beginning of all sorts of problems! Lord help me reign in my tongue!

    • Katalina

      Oh, I love that mug! Amen Heather!

    • She Reads Truth

      What a great reminder, Heather! In such a perfect place (I definitely think coffee could be the culprit)! So glad you shared with us.

      – Stormye

  • every time I read this passage, I remind myself to always be reminded of it. And yet so often I am careless in my words. I talk about what I please with whom I please, with the occasional realisation that well, maybe this is gossip and can be worded differently… Hence, it’s good to be reminded again today.

  • Stephanie Hibbert

    “What if the words we spoke appeared on our skin forever” I can’t remember who said this but what a scary thought….. and yet one worth living by…..

    • Lynn JT

      That is quite a thought, isn’t it?

    • She Reads Truth

      Wow! That is a chilling quote. Thank you for sharing this morning, Stephanie!

      – Stormye

    • Anna Marie Yoder

      Stephanie,
      Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! How powerful that thought is! I pray that I will be able to remember that thought, the next time I get into a “situation” where I would normally say unkind words.
      God bless you Stephanie.

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