In the book of James, chapter 3, verse 2, we read these words: We all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well. NASB
The Passion Translation renders this verse like this: We all fail in many areas, but especially with our words. Yet if we’re able to bridle the words we say we are powerful enough to control ourselves in every way, and that means our character is mature and fully developed. James 3:2 TPT
This verse from the book of James reminds me of Proverb 18:21: Death and life are in the power of the tongue and those who love it will eat its fruit.
As I ponder these verses, I find myself deeply grateful for the promise in Lamentations: The Lord’s kindnesses indeed never cease for His compassions are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness! Lam. 3:22-23
I need His grace every day for life, for health, for patience, for perseverance, for every thing I will encounter during each day and most certainly, I need His grace every day to to keep my words pure and right in His eyes. The tongue is something we must use every day. How we use it has a great deal to do with the course of our life. One day at a time, as disciples of the Lord Jesus, we are called to have dominion over the words of our mouths. Therefore, success in controlling our tongues is something we need to pray for daily.
It is the Holy Spirit, who dwells within each born again disciple of the Lord, who can teach us and train us what to say and what not to say, when to speak and when to keep silent. Jesus said in Matthew 12:36 that we would give an account of ‘every careless word’. We need the daily cleansing of the blood of Jesus every day, don’t we? I John 1:7
It is in our everyday conversations that we succeed or we fail to live up to the standard Jesus set before us. Not only should we show some self-control in how much we say – lest we wear people out with our non-stop talking – but also in the words we choose to use with family, friends, co-workers and people we run into from time to time.
Can you bridle your tongue when your heart is under pressure? That’s how you show you are wise. An understanding heart keeps you cool, calm and collected, no matter what you’re facing. Proverbs 17:27-28 TPT
For example, think about the prophet Samuel. He went to the house of Jesse at God’s bidding in order to anoint the next king of Israel. In ancient Israel, the firstborn always received double the inheritance so it should come as no surprise that when Samuel saw Eliab, Jesse’s oldest son, he assumed that Eliab was the likely candidate.
He looked on Eliab and said, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed is before me.’ I Sam. 16:6 Imagine how Eliab and Jesse must have felt to hear the prophet of the Lord make that statement.
But Samuel was wrong in what he said. God quickly stepped in to correct him. ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance but God looks at the heart. I Sam. 16:7
The respected prophet of Israel had just made a big mistake. His tongue had gotten him in big trouble! Samuel had to walk back his comments, admit he had been wrong and go through all of Jesse’s sons until he saw David, the youngest and heard the Lord say, ‘This is the one. Anoint him.’
It is not easy to admit that you’ve been wrong. Nothing challenges our big egos like being smacked in the face with evidence that says very plainly you blew it. You misread a situation or misjudged a person and SPOKE IT aloud. We die a thousand deaths when that happens, don’t we?
Yet, my dear friends, though it hurts our pride and may even cause others to question our judgment in the future, the inner peace that comes from the Holy Spirit when we are honest about our failures more than compensates for the humiliation of ‘walking back’ what we have wrongly said. When a prophet of God of the stature of Samuel is willing to humble himself and repent of his failure, he sets an example for all of us.
Perhaps David remembered this scene later in life after he had sinned with Bathsheba and was confronted by the prophet Nathan. If you will read the account in 2 Samuel 12 David sets the same example that Samuel did. When made to stare squarely at what he had done, David makes no excuses, he offers no rationalization. When Nathan declares, ‘You are the man.’ David repents immediately, does not deny his guilt and accepts the humiliation.
We generally find it very difficult to recognize our own self-righteousness. We are quick to judge others but very slow to see the same sin in ourselves. As in David’s case, our own sins have a way of blinding us to our own truth, and we fail to see obvious shortcomings within ourselves. That was David. And it’s all of us.
The only man in all of the Bible who is called ‘a man after God’s own heart’ (I Sam. 13:14) committed one of the most shameful sins a man can commit. Yet, as soon as he saw what he had done from God’s perspective, he said – out loud – ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’ 2 Samuel 12:13 We cannot lightly dismiss this confession for we’re talking about the king of a nation. His admission had huge repercussions for his reputation. A cloud of shame hung over him for a long time in the eyes of the people.
But God wasn’t finished with David and it was this David who wrote Psalm 51, the most amazing declaration of sin, guilt, forgiveness and restoration.
Perhaps we have repented for words we should never have said. Perhaps we’ve forgotten some for which we have never repented. The cleansing power of the Blood of Jesus is available to us right now. He is willing to cleanse us from every sin, including every word we’ve spoken that was displeasing in His sight. Let us repent from our hearts for every word that was out of character and/or opposed to the standard of integrity Jesus set before us.
He’s a forgiving God to those who repent but He also adds, ‘Go and sin no more.’
Yet if we’re able to bridle the words we say we are powerful enough to control ourselves in every way, and that means our character is mature and fully developed. James 3:2 TPT