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James 3:7-8 – Down Boy! Down!

For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.

When we arrived home to Brazil, a little over four weeks prior to the time of this writing, our two dogs were overjoyed to see us. Realizing we were in the car, they rushed it and jumped repeatedly up against the vehicle, pawing at the doors as we slowly made our way down the driveway.

That was heartwarming and endearing…that one time. But as the days went by they continued to exhibit this behavior, something they had not done previously. After a week or so we decided that we had enough of this. A few stern words and threatening gestures later, and now the dogs wait patiently at a distance for us to pull all the way into our carport. Every once in a while one of them will make a move towards the car, but usually a sideways look and a spoken word will stop her in her tracks.

Oh that my tongue were so easy to control!

Now one may be tempted to say “But Andrew, you’re a missionary. Surely you’ve got a handle on this!”

As if. There’s a reason why James has directed this section specifically at those who hold teaching positions within the church.

Today was a case in point. My wife and I have a habit of praying when we are on the road. We use this time to commit any upcoming ministries to God and ask for his blessing in the lives of friends and colleagues. Having meditated on this passage in preparation for this very article, I was especially sensitive to my propensity to spout out at the mouth. So I specifically mentioned the control of my tongue in my prayers.

Then later that day, after a particular conversation, my lovely wife took me aside and said “You really shouldn’t have said that back there.” And she was right. My loose lips may not have sunk any ships, but my heart sure sank as the Holy Spirit used Itacyara’s words to convict me.

Now I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that everybody reading this post knows exactly what I am talking about. James is, after all, writing under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. What he says is true. Our tongue is one area – perhaps the most difficult area – that must be constantly under the control of Spirit.

But it’s not just the misplaced word or phrase spoken out of turn that’s the problem. No…there’s more. We’ll look at that next week.

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