James 1:26 says, “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.”
Read James 3:1-12 – In this passage, why is the tongue compared to a horse’s bit, a ship’s rudder, and a small spark?
It is compared to a horse’s bit and ship’s rudder because it is small, but it has the ability to guide or steer us in a certain direction. Like a small spark, it has the power to cause great harm.
Verse 6 says, “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body …” It goes further in verse 8 to say that “no man can tame the tongue.”
All of this makes it almost seem like there is no hope when it comes to controlling our speech. Yet, it must be possible, because we are commanded to do it. The point is that we cannot do this in our own strength, and also that we will never control what comes out of our mouths if we do not control what’s in our hearts.
Read James 1:1-27. Notice that speech sins are discussed in the context of the “trials of many kinds” (v. 2) which test our faith and develop our perseverance. Why do we have more trouble taming our tongues when we are in the middle of trials? Can you think of times when you’ve seen stress bring about speech sins?
According to verses 13-15, the temptation to sin in any area comes from our “own evil desires.” What evil desires might be in play when we have trouble controlling our mouths during trials/stress?
selfishness, doubt, anger, desire for revenge – Can you think of others?
Besides the big section in chapter three on the tongue, note what other verses in James have to say with regard to speech:
1:19 – be “slow to speak”
1:26 – “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.”
2:1-9 – We should be careful not to show favoritism and not to “dishonor the poor” (v. 6).
2:12-13 – Speak and act in ways that show mercy rather than judgement.
2:15-17 – Speaking good wishes or prayers to someone without taking action to help them is called faith that is dead.
4:1-2 warns against fights and quarrels.
4:11 – “Brothers, do not slander one another.”
5:9 – “Don’t grumble against each other.”
James does list some things which can help us overcome these temptations:
1:5 – We can pray for wisdom.
1:21 – We can make sure the word is planted in us.
5:16 – We can confess our sins to each other and pray for each other.
Pray and ask God to help you see if any of the thoughts from the devotion and/or Bible study apply to you. Pray that he will convict you if you are …
- being insensitive to the effects of gossip on others (1 Cor 12:26).
- associating too much with those who gossip (1 Cor 15:33; Prov 18:8; 26:22).
- “lightly receiving accusations” against others (1 Tim 5:19;6:3-5,11,20).
- in any way being unloving (1 Cor 13).
- letting stress or trials cause you to commit speech sins (James 1:2).
Scripture tells us that the mouth speaks “out of the overflow of the heart” (Mt 12:34;15:1-20). If you do have a problem in this area, pray that God will reveal to you what’s in your heart that is causing the problem. Make note of any thoughts or convictions.
Read the passages from the devotion which speak about covering someone’s faults (Prov 10:12,17:9; 1 Cor 12:22-26;13:5; 1 Pet 4:8). Ask yourself if there is anyone you may need to apply these passages to, praying that God will help you see any you may not recognize on your own.
If anyone did come to mind, write down anything you can that is positive about that person (see Phil 4:1-8).
You might want to memorize Psalm 141:3.
Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.
You could choose to make any convictions you had in the meditation section a matter of prayer for the next month. Write down any convictions you’ve had while reading the devotion and/or the Bible study.
Go over the suggestions on the back of the devotion and list any that you might want to consider:
What do you specifically want to do in response to this month’s devotion?