Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.
James 1: 26
Words have power. In some cases, words influence who we are, and words are also the lens through which the world often judges us. When life is calm, it is easy to find the right words for any occasion, but when we are under stress or trial, we sometimes feel less restrained in what we utter. Consider times when you’ve said something you ought not to have said and then added sheepishly, “Pardon my French!” or “Oooops! That was a slip of the tongue.” Or even more common, consider times when you’ve considered yourself religious (read: a believer or person of faith), and yet have uttered untruths, half-truths or unkind words regarding a fellow believer, family member or colleague at work. James reminds us that it is easy to deceive ourselves, by considering ourselves religious and yet not keeping a tight rein on our tongues (James 1:26).
In other words, as people of faith we must learn to bridle our tongues; even as a horse trainer bridles his horse. According to James, we must learn to exercise restraint in our speech otherwise our religion (faith) is worthless, useless, and vain. James further exhorts believers to examine their speech closely so that nothing flows through the lips unexamined. When confronted with the glory and truth regarding God’s identity and power, Isaiah humbled himself crying out, “Woe to me!” I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty (Isaiah 6:5)”
If God is the Word (John 1:1) and his Spirit lives in us, then our speech is a representation of who he is. Which then begs the question, what kind of ambassador are you? Does the world recognize what Kingdom you represent when you speak? The Bible contains more than 100 references concerning the power of our words (Proverbs: 10:14; 11:9; 12:13-14; 13:3; 18:21; Psalm 64:3-4; Isaiah: 50:4; Ephesians 4:29). Throughout scripture Jesus uses words sparingly and wisely to admonish, comfort, exhort, teach, and to point his disciples towards God the Father. His desire then and now, is to see believers follow his example. As the writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us: “Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few (Ecclesiastes 5:2). May our words be few and pleasing to the Lord today.
Heavenly Father, I confess that my words do not always edify those around me. Forgive me for uttering unexamined words that have hurt those around me. Cleanse my heart, so that my words might constantly reflect your Spirit and your work in my life. Take my lips and consecrate them for your service, in Jesus’ name. Amen.