Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. – Jms. 1:26 NIV
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James whom bible scholars believe was a blood brother of Jesus Christ and the first Bishop of the Church of Christ in Jerusalem had chosen to write an epistle to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations, in his time giving teachings and expositions which he expected will improve their Christian life, either personally or in their relationship with one another or with Jehovah – Jms. 1.1. Every one of his advice then, remains ever green, as they are equally important and relevant for the Christian today, as it was, to the people to whom it was addressed then. One of those many advises is the foundation scripture for today’s Devotional where he made it clear that anyone who cannot rein in his/tongue, but yet considers self as religious will be living in self deceit, as such should not expect any recognition or reward from the Lord, for such supposed religious acts or conduct.
Put in another way, the one who thinks he/she is religious, but is not able to control tightly his/her pronouncements lives in deceit and the religious acts of such an individual is of no value. Very hard words to swallow, but still the plain truth. To be religious is not only to believe and operate in the principles of a religion, but to want to relate with people from the perspectives of that religion. Such an individual strives to live according to the doctrines, norms and moral values prescribed by that religion. So when anyone is described as being religious from the Christian perspective, it will be that the thinking, speeches and actions of such will be guided by biblical standards and precepts, and such will equally relate with others in such a manner, so much that all people will testify to such lifestyle in such a person – Matt. 5:14-16. Such will also expect to be so rewarded by Jehovah, may be in this world but definitely in the life after life. This expected reward is what Bishop James suggests may never come, if such cannot apply effective controls on what is said. So what does it mean to put tight reins on one’s tongue.
Medical science has confirmed that, the tongue, aside from helping in the process of swallowing, is the main part of the body that enables man to achieve audible communication. In effect, man will not be able to speak if something was to happen and the tongue becomes absent.
The same Bishop James described the tongue as a very small part of the human anatomy that is capable of doing great things. According to him, the tongue has the ability to set any life on fire by introducing evil words which transform into evil thoughts in lives of those who hear them and corrupting them, an action which can potentially send both the one talking and the one listening to hell – Jms. 3:5-6. The unfortunate part of this danger is the inability of everyone but the owner to control or tame the activities of the tongue, unlike the ability to tame other animals. He declared the tongue as a restless evil, full of deadly poison. Wow! Some strong words to describe something that most human beings possess and have the right to use without license. He however, noted that the tongue, as potentially deadly as it can be, including being used to rain curses on fellow men, can also be deployed for positive purposes including the praise of Jehovah and all His works, if the owner so desires, and so advised that the one who possesses the ability to use the tongue, make conscious effort to deploy it for positive acts like the latter rather than the negative acts listed above – Jms. 3:7-12.
The decision to use the tongue for positive purposes will definitely require some conscious efforts from each individual, as no license or restriction, aside from such willingness on the part of each individual, can achieve such objectives. The religious person who is conscious of how much good or damage the tongue can do, will thus be expected to apply caution in its use, after all, the tongue only expresses what is in the mind of each individual. The Bible says that it is from the abundance of the heart, that the mouth speaks, or better put, the tongue only expresses what is in the soul of a man – Lk. 6:45.
It is true that the Almighty God does not tolerate wicked thoughts as He is able to see the thoughts of men and He judges them accordingly (Jer. 17:10), but it becomes worse when men pronounce statements that puts lives or organisations on fire, or worse still, put them on the path to hell. That the use of the tongue is free for all those who can use it should not be sufficient reason to destroy lives of not only that of the owner but that of several others. That explains why Bishop James advises that the one who is to use this free but deadly tool, does so by applying tight reins on it.
To apply tight reins simply means to apply an effective control, with the awareness that those words once spoken cannot be retracted, and they can be as deadly as throwing spears into the heart of the listeners. No matter how much an individual wants to present a picture of being religious, the lives that have been destroyed because of the uncontrolled use of the tongue, will never be able to justify such claims, as the fruit of such careless use of the tongue begin to manifest in the lives of individuals and groups of people who have become victims of such careless use of the tongue.
Because there is no legal way to control how people especially, friends and family members use their tongues, it is important for all, to be conscious of this potential danger that is constantly looming around, called careless or dangerous talk, which is the result of the uncontrolled use of the tongue, as it can be used to released words that have the potential of destroying any life. The one who does not desire to be a victim of tongues that are not reined in, must learn to filter every product of each person’s tongue so as not to become a victim of such carelessly used tool.
However the one who honestly desires to keep tight reins on the tongue will start with being honest with the claim to live a Christian religious life style. This will ensure that the thoughts of such are clean and pure, so that whatever will be coming out, even during those times of anger will not harbor deadly poisons. That remains the only way to avoid putting fire in your life and that of others because you have the freedom and Grace to talk. May the product of our tongue be that of a clean and sanctified soul, sufficient to bring positivity into the lives of all who hear us, in Jesus name. Amen.