Today we will wrap up our study of James 1 and tomorrow we will begin looking at chapter 2. So if you are just now joining us, you only have one short chapter to catch up on.
26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless
Yet again, James addresses our words. The image he uses in this verse is one of a “rein” on the tongue. Reins on our tongues would provide “a means of restraint, check, or guidance”. Reins on a horse are used “to restrain or control” the movement of a horse and we need something to help us restrain and control our tongues. We have a built in “rein” in the form of the leading of the Holy Spirit, but do we pay attention to it? Are we sensitive enough to the guidance of the Holy Spirit or do we tune it out and go ahead and say what is on our minds?
James says there are two consequences for not having control on your tongue. The first is that it causes us to deceive ourselves. It is easy for us to not pay attention to our words and, therefore, not pay attention to the impact they have on others. We need to make sure we are aware of not only what we say but how we say things. Sometimes it is in the tone we use that impacts people the most. I often tell my daughters it isn’t so much what you say but how you say it. What has the attitude and tone of your words been like in the last week?
In addition, we can deceive ourselves by what we say when we don’t take the time to pay attention to how our words and our tone are impacting the people around us. A horse out of control can run and trample down a group of people and never look back. Is that the picture that would describe some of your conversations over the past week?
27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
The end of verse 26 “his religion is worthless” and verse 27 points to the second consequence James is refers to when we do not “rein” in our tongues. Our “doing” things for God or serving Him loses its power when our words and tone don’t match what we are doing. A friend of mine was in a heated discussion with her husband when the phone rang. She answered it and it was someone at the church asking her to make a meal for a family in need. When she got off the phone, her husband said, “I sure wish you would talk to me the way you talk to the ladies at the church.”
Her words to her husband were harsh and hurtful but her attitude and tone immediately changed when she answered the phone. I think this example illustrates perfectly how our service for the Lord can appear worthless when our words don’t match it. Controlling our tongues is one of the most difficult things for us to do and it is why James addresses it multiple times in this short book.
Have you had a “rein” on your tongue in the last week? What has your attitude and tone of your words been? Do you need to seek the forgiveness of others and the Lord for your words? Have you been like my friend and treated those in your family quite differently than you would people at your church? Do you speak differently to your family than you do to your friends at church? Seek the Lord and allow His Holy Spirit to reveal to you what your words have been like so you can ask Him and others for forgiveness. Pray He will give you a sensitivity to the leading of His Holy Spirit when it comes to your words and help you keep a tight rein on your tongue.
- Scripture references from http://www.biblegateway.com
- Definition of “rein” from http://www.freedictionary.com