If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. (James 1:26 NLT)
Words! I love words. Words allow us to connect with each other and commune with God. But I’ve seen the damage words can do to individuals, families, churches, even nations. James warns us to use our words well, with sober reflections on the dangers of the tongue. I gotta say, this one hits close to home.
I may think I am “wearing my faith well.” But James warns that if I don’t watch my words, I’m in trouble. The exact translation of this verse from the Greek reads like this:
If someone thinks that he is religious, yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. (James 1:26 MOUNCE)
Notice that the translator adds a twist. If I don’t “bridle my tongue,” I actually deceive my own heart. What’s more, my religion (the practical expression of my faith), is worthless. The word “worthless” is from mataios, conveying the idea of “purposelessness or futility.” My faith becomes futile.
Words are simply evidence of what’s in our heart, according to Scripture. Jesus Himself said it this way: “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart” (Luke 6:45).
Maybe you, too, struggle with your words. Sometimes, I speak before I think. I know I need to grow in the area of governing my speech. But bridling my tongue goes deeper than my words. Jesus reminds me it’s a heart issue. Seems like the Lord’s message to me through James today is straightforward. If I keep my heart clean on a daily basis, my words will take care of themselves.
Lord, put a watch over the door to my lips. Catch me before I speak words that might wound. Fill my heart so full of Your love that my words will bring life to those around me. Make me more sensitive to Your voice and more receptive to Your Word. Daily. -Amen.