Day 5

Controlling the Tongue

from the James reading plan


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

BY Amanda Bible Williams

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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Post Comments (90)

90 thoughts on "Controlling the Tongue"

  1. Rebekah Jarboe says:

    I am fully aware that I struggle with this, but because of the depth of my sin I am having a hard time figuring out how. Please women of the church pray with me to be humble and open to the words of God. Because his truth is the only one that is worth speaking !

    1. She Reads Truth says:

      Thanks for sharing this Rebekah, we’re praying for you! -Margot, The SRT Team

  2. Denae Benson says:

    I have always thought words are incredibly important. I study history and so I spend hours looking at the speeches, writings, and documents that have shaped and destroyed civilizations and societies. Words are POWERFUL. My ex boyfriend would always say things that I thought he shouldn’t and told him so. He always said I shouldn’t let words bother me so much that they can’t really hurt you. But words can do so much damage and I find a strange comfort in this lesson knowing that our words ARE so important. I struggle with my words a lot. With the right things to say and not to say. But praise the lord I can ask for help! And thank the lord I’m not the only one!

  3. Timberly Cabe says:

    I need to book mark this lesson. My tongue is quick to “spark” when I am angry. I’m thankful the Lord is there to forgive and I pray daily for control!

  4. Sarah Schumacher says:

    This is a lesson I continually have to learn in life. I currently nanny for a 1 year old boy and as he’s developing in his personality, attitude comes with it. Anytime he throws anything or swat me away because I won’t let him do something, I have to pray because I get irritated. The words in my mind do not want to give life in those moments.

  5. Michelle says:

    Hard words to read, because they are convicting. I, too, have spoken “sparks”. So important to read them regularly and be reminded of how much I need God’s wisdom when I speak (or to tell me when not to speak!) and His forgiveness and grace when I speak poorly.

  6. Jennifer says:

    I have to work on my mouth. Someday, I’ll be better.

  7. Morgan says:

    This is one of those lessons that make me wince every time I hear it again. It will be a life long lesson for sure

  8. Jodi says:

    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.

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