Tame Your Tongue!
By Terry Cheek Th.D.
James 1:26-27 ‘If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. (27) Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.’
James, the Lord’s half-brother writes to the church in his epistle. He covers many topics, but this month look with me at two verses from chapter one. These two verses challenge us to mind our mouths. Let’s visit these two verses.
The word or term religious is very popular and yet it is a word people very seldom think about. Exactly what does it mean to be religious? This question can be answered using many different approaches, for our study I will be using the text above. The word James uses is the Greek word thrace’-kos and it means a proper demonstration of respect to the only deity.
This is fine; however, it does raise another question: What is proper respect and devotion to the deity? That depends on who or what the deity is. Pagan gods are seen as selfish, greedy, and unpredictable. When we consider these, proper devotion may take the form of a sacrifice that is nothing more than a bribe or protection money. A religious person who shows honor to a pagan god hopes the god will be pleased and not cause a disaster.
However, the one and only true God that is revealed in the Bible has nothing in common with pagan gods. God as revealed through our Bible is just, righteous, and good in all things, He is generous and forgiving. God’s wrath does burn against evil, but His grace is abundant for those willing to receive it. Our Bible teaches us that God takes the side of the weak and helpless – those who recognize their great need for what only He can give.
Therefore, proper respect for the one and only true God is behavior that reflects who God is. This behavior involves being obedient to His will while upholding His standards of justice, mercy, grace, and forgiveness. Respecting God means acknowledging God’s supreme authority in what we say and do.
According to our passage, all of this begins with how we use our tongues. Speech that honors God is speech under control, for illustration, the way a horse with a bit and bridle is under the control of its owner. The speech of a God-honoring person will follow the path that God establishes; he or she will use speech that is filled with love, grace, and forgiveness but tempered by righteousness and justice.
Verse 26 dealt with words and their importance in the life of a godly person. Verse 27 considers the deeds which validate our speech. Here James further explains proper devotion to God with a shortlist of representative actions. In James’ day, these were very familiar to Christians of Jewish background.
The Old Testament often names the widows and fatherless as special objects of Gods attention. They are typical of those in a position of weakness. God is their only hope for help. Those who know God will reflect His mercy by responding to this need.
James pairs generosity to the helpless with being unspotted by worldly corruption. Knowing that God is good, just, righteous, and merciful the world which is in rebellion against God is anything but these things. If we allow the world to influence us, we end up bearing the attitude and behavior it produces. What exactly illustrates this attitude and behavior well let’s see; selfishness, violence, hatred, and vindictiveness just to name a few. The individual with a God-honoring life contrasts with and stands out from the world. The life of that individual reflects God Himself rather than the world that runs and hides from Him.
In closing pure…and undefiled is the kind of devotion we seek when we see ourselves and our situation correctly. If we try to split the difference between God and the world, we reveal that we are holding onto sin and not embracing our salvation. Grasping the truth of God’s word impels us to end the world’s kind of life and pursue God’s kind.
Until we meet again, in print or person may God bless you is my prayer!
Terry is the Executive Director and broadcaster of The Inspiring Word media ministry. You can contact Terry by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.