Training animals is not easy. It usually requires months of repeated commands and guidance and the use of rewards and perhaps also punishments to get the behavior you want from a creature. You might even need to get help from a professional to get particularly stubborn animals to submit to your authority. And yet the Bible says that learning to “tame” or control what we say is much harder than taming animals. One moment we find ourselves using our words to build people up with encouragement, and the next moment we are using our words to tear other people down. We can go from saying the kindest and most loving things to a person to saying equally mean and hateful things about them the very same week or even day.
What causes such inconsistency in our words? It is the fickleness of our hearts. Just as a spring sends forth water to the surface from deep in the earth, so our mouths pour out speech from down in our souls. As long as our hearts remain unsteady and based on our changing circumstances instead of on the solid foundation of Christ’s Word, we will be find ourselves constantly canceling out the good we say with the evil. As James tells us today, “This should not be!” Rather, we need to learn to set our hearts each morning and evening on God’s truths and promises and let the Spirit bring forth the fruit of self-control in our words. It is very difficult to master our speech, but if we are to faithfully follow Christ, then it must be done for His sake. God would not ask us to do something without helping us to do it by His power and grace. May the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to God this day and every day.
The Text (James 3:7-12)
7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
Questions to Think About
- How long do you think it takes to break a horse for riding? How about to train a dog to obey commands? Or to teach a seal to do tricks? How are these animals trained?
- How long does it take a person to learn to control what they say? Explain.
- Do you know any people with good self-control of their words? What would you guess is their secret?
- Have you ever had someone say very nice things to you one time but then say very mean things to or about you another time? What did they say? How did you feel?